Editor’s note: Shooters Grill was reportedly closed back down and only doing take-out service on Wednesday after the county obtained a cease-and-desist order. On Friday, May 15, Shooters Grill posted on its Facebook page that Garfield County public health suspended the restaurant’s food license.
For most Vail residents, Rifle is a pitstop for gas and groceries on the way to mountain biking in Fruita or Moab. But there’s a pistol-packing restaurant owner there who is making national headlines in her bid to represent part of Eagle County and most of the rest of the Western Slope in Congress.
Lauren Boebert, who became a right-wing heroine last fall when she challenged Beto O’Rourke with a “hell, no” to his call for giving up assault rifles, is seeking the Republican nomination for incumbent five-term U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s 3rd Congressional District seat.
Tipton, a Cortez Republican, has comfortably defended his seat against all comers since 2010, and has generally been a conservative stalwart – backing fossil fuel extraction and President Donald Trump (he’s the president’s Colorado re-election campaign co-chair) in the massive, Republican-leaning district that includes all or part of 29 of Colorado’s 64 counties. Tipton represents roughly the western two-thirds of Eagle County.
But Boebert, who won top-line billing in the recent virtual CD3 assembly (Tipton petitioned onto the ballot), claims the congressman is not conservative enough and has failed to properly support the oil and gas industry in Washington. She goes as far as claiming Tipton supports versions of the Green New Deal, citing a bipartisan renewable energy bill on public lands that is not considered part of any of the progressive energy policies put forth by liberal Democrats.
For Boebert, taking out Tipton in Colorado’s June 30 primary is all about bringing back the natural gas boom that poured cash into Garfield County coffers in years gone by.
“As far as our energy industry, when there used to be chunks of mud on my floor that we had to sweep up in between serving people, that’s when the economy was doing good,” Boebert said of the muddy boots of gas-patch workers at Shooters Grill. “And then when that dirt goes away, we’re not doing so good because that means that we don’t have those workers here anymore.”
Boebert, who has four boys with her husband who’s a contract natural-gas worker, said health insurance is so expensive on the Western Slope for self-employed people that her family has not been able to afford it for more than three years – instead setting money aside for medical emergencies. She supports open-market solutions to lower costs, not more government intervention.
Asked how vital the return of tourism is for the 3rd Congressional District, which stretches from Pueblo in the south to Steamboat Springs in the north to Grand Junction in the west – and includes the global ski destinations of Vail and Aspen, Boebert had this to say:
“As far as tourism, Rifle is usually just a stopping place, and, honestly, for the past seven years, a lot of people stop in Rifle because of Shooters Grill,” Boebert said. “For the longest time at the visitors center, that was the number-one asked question: ‘Where’s the restaurant where the girls carry guns?’”
The energy industry, Boebert said, supports high-paying jobs that bring real money into rural economies. However, she adds that the current restrictions on restaurants, retail and other tourism-dependent businesses due to the COVID-19 outbreak need to go away soon.
“I would like to see the rural areas open up more rapidly,” Boebert said. “I mean, we’re not Denver, and in the 3rd Congressional District, our economy is far different than Denver’s, and it always has been and always will be.”
Boebert has grabbed more headlines in recent days by opening Shooters Grill up for in-person dining on May 9, although, unlike Castle Rock’s C&C Kitchen, she said her restaurant is adhering to federal guidelines while going against state regulations. The state has shut down C&C after it garnered national headlines for overcrowded Mother’s Day dining.
Boebert, according to Denver’s Westword, could be headed for a showdown with generally conservative, pro-fossil-fuel Garfield County commissioners over her defiance of Gov. Jared Polis’ statewide prohibitions against in-person dining in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Two Democrats are battling to take on either Boebert or Tipton in the November general election. Former Eagle and Routt County state representative Diane Mitsch Bush, who lost to Tipton by around 8 percentage points in 2018, and Seattle Fish Company executive James Iacino – a political newcomer who lives in Ridgeway.
RealVail.com will have more on their campaigns in the coming weeks.
A Tipton campaign spokesman declined to comment on the record about Boebert’s campaign.