Lauren Boebert ran her gun themed restaurant for years. The new district she hopes to win has a ‘Shooters’ too

Part of Lauren Boebert’s fame came from her gun-themed restaurant Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado — Boebert has left that district and closed her restaurant, but another Shooters exists in the distract she’s desperately hoping to win next week (AP / Sheila Flynn)
Part of Lauren Boebert’s fame came from her gun-themed restaurant Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado — Boebert has left that district and closed her restaurant, but another Shooters exists in the distract she’s desperately hoping to win next week (AP / Sheila Flynn)

Lauren Boebert shot to fame with her gun-themed restaurant Shooters Grill, where waitresses served customers flouting loaded firearms in hip holsters – and tourists increasingly flocked as the MAGA Republican’s profile rose.

That Shooters, in the appropriately named town of Rifle, shut down two years ago, just as Boebert has begun closing the chapter on the constituency where it’s located and where she’s the incumbent. Rather than seeking re-election in the 3rd congressional district, Boebert abandoned ship to run in a new constituency eastward – and as luck would have it, there’s another Shooters there.

Boebert and her then-husband operated Shooters Grill in Rifle until 2022; it became a tourist attraction for gun paraphernalia and later its association with the firebrand congresswoman (Sheila Flynn)
Boebert and her then-husband operated Shooters Grill in Rifle until 2022; it became a tourist attraction for gun paraphernalia and later its association with the firebrand congresswoman (Sheila Flynn)

Boebert has no connection to this sleeker restaurant almost 275 miles away in Byers. Shooters Bar & Grill serves alcohol, unlike Boebert’s venture — probably wise, considering the firearms, which the new Shooters is also missing. Also highlighting their differences: the new Shooters has not had any bad press for skirting Covid rules (having only opened last June) nor reports of food poisoning.

The Byers Shooters, however, does get the odd Boebert-themed question.

“We’ve had people ask about it,” general manager Tiffany Engelsman tells The Independent just over a week before the June 25 primary – which will decide whether Boebert gets the GOP nomination for the seat in the 4th congressional district — although she notes it’s “definitely not” a common occurrence.

Shooters Bar & Grill in Byers, nearly 275 miles east of Boebert’s old restaurant in Rifle, has no connection to the congresswoman -- but gets the odd question, and sits within the constituency she hopes to represent (Sheila Flynn)
Shooters Bar & Grill in Byers, nearly 275 miles east of Boebert’s old restaurant in Rifle, has no connection to the congresswoman -- but gets the odd question, and sits within the constituency she hopes to represent (Sheila Flynn)

Polling earlier this month placed Boebert with a 35-point lead over five other candidates, though 40% of voters were undecided at the time, according to the Kaplan Strategies poll.

Boebert announced in December that she would no longer pursue a re-election campaign in CD3, where she narrowly beat Democrat Adam Frisch two years ago by just 546 votes. At the time of the switch announcement, many voters in the eastern plains – a more heavily rural and conservative agricultural district – were not hugely familiar with Boebert, despite her national presence.

A cardboard cutout of a holstered Lauren Boebert helped point the way to the bathroom at her restaurant before it closed; tourists would take photos of themselves with the cutout and a cardboard cutout of Trump (Sheila Flynn)
A cardboard cutout of a holstered Lauren Boebert helped point the way to the bathroom at her restaurant before it closed; tourists would take photos of themselves with the cutout and a cardboard cutout of Trump (Sheila Flynn)

While some of CD4 touches the edges of Denver’s commuter suburbs, most communities are small, close-knit and rural, home to farms producing crops like wheat, corn and oats as well as dairy and hog operations, and livestock ranches. The district stretches to the Kansas border and is considered Colorado’s agricultural heartland, a cultural world away from liberal Denver and the state’s ski towns.

Familiarity with Boebert and her voting record has increased since December as word trickled out, says constituent Michele Wingo, shopping at the Byers General Store just down the street from the town’s Shooters.

“I just know she fights for us and fights for our rights,” she tells The Independent.

“I love what she did up there,” she adds, referring to Boebert’s old constituency. “I was like, ‘Oh, I wish she was down here.’”

Boebert smiles before the first Republican primary debate for the 4th Congressional district in January in Fort Lupton, Colorado; her move to an already-crowded Republican primary caused rancor within some factions the party (AP)
Boebert smiles before the first Republican primary debate for the 4th Congressional district in January in Fort Lupton, Colorado; her move to an already-crowded Republican primary caused rancor within some factions the party (AP)

Next week’s primary will determine how many other voters share the sentiments of Wingo, who also works at the store’s pharmacy and overhears local gossip – which tends to focus more on the national scene than local.

“They just talk about the president,” Wingo says. “They don’t talk about anybody else.”

She’d been hoping to stop at Boebert’s former restaurant Shooters on the way to drive her daughter to college in Grand Junction, on the other side of the state – but was sad to learn the business had closed. (Her daughter, who is old enough to vote, was unfamiliar with Boebert.)

The space on Rifle’s Main Street, which used to be filled with guns and Second-Amendment-themed paraphernalia beside cardboard Trump cutouts, has been replaced by a Mexican eatery.

A short drive from Shooters Bar & Grill in Byers is a general store; the rural community is representative of many agricultural towns within the district Boebert hopes to represent (Sheila Flynn)
A short drive from Shooters Bar & Grill in Byers is a general store; the rural community is representative of many agricultural towns within the district Boebert hopes to represent (Sheila Flynn)

And it remains to be seen how much of a mark Boebert will leave on this new constituency, where the Republican primary is heavily crowded and where rancour remains about her carpet-bagging move.

“Lauren Boebert doesn’t know CD4. She doesn’t know this district, its constituents, or its strengths and challenges,” Republican State Sen. Byron Pelton and his wife wrote this month in a letter to the Sterling Journal-Advocate endorsing rival Jerry Sonnenberg in the primary.

“She hopes that by spending her massive marketing budget (primarily earned from her previous district), that you will vote for her because you have been inundated with her advertising materials … We’ve had people tell us they are voting for Boebert because ‘she’s a fighter’ and ‘she’s not afraid to get on TV and speak her mind.’

“We would ask you to consider that being an effective legislator is much more than being loud and being on TV.”

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