Lauren Boebert, whose restaurant Shooters Grill has been defying Garfield County’s public health order by offering sit-down service, has found a new way to try to stay open for in-person dining. On Thursday morning she set up chairs and tables out in front of her Rifle eatery.
“This morning I decided to open on the city street because my employees still need paychecks,” she wrote on Twitter. “I will not back down!”
CPR was unable to reach Boebert Thursday and it is unclear if the restaurant actually served any diners outside, or if local officials took any action to end the impromptu outdoor service.
Boebert, who’s running against Republican congressman Scott Tipton in the June primary, reopened dine-in service on May 9 and has been tussling with the health department ever since.
On Tuesday she received a cease-and-desist order, but opened again on Wednesday. That evening she was served with a temporary restraining order, requiring her to close her dining room over what the county health department called “ongoing violations of the statewide Safer at Home order.” The health department said diners already in the restaurant were allowed to finish their meals.
The cease-and-desist order is in place until a hearing on May 18th, but still allows for curbside and takeout service.
Prior to Boebert's showdown with public health officials, Shooters Grill was known mainly as a gun-themed restaurant where waitstaff open-carry firearms. Boebert says she decided to break the rules after becoming frustrated that local officials had not requested a waiver like neighboring Mesa County’s, which has allowed restaurants there to reopen with certain restrictions in place.
“Our leaders did not do that and that's been my frustration with our government here and in this district for so long now,” she said, in an interview to CPR a few hours before receiving the restraining order. “I don't see elected officials standing for freedom, but I see a whole lot of them giving it away.”
On Wednesday Boebert said the restaurant would only allow 30 percent capacity, and that servers would wear face masks, practice social distancing and do extra cleaning.
In its press release announcing the cease-and-desist order against Shooters Grill, Garfield County’s health department said the current restrictions are in place to protect the community from COVID-19. And it notes that on Monday, Garfield County Commissioners did send a letter to the governor, asking for a variance from the statewide “safer at home” order.
“Garfield County Commissioners are actively working on behalf of county businesses to petition the governor to more widely reopen local businesses in a staged and safe manner,” the release states, noting that “more than 600 business social distancing plans have been submitted to Garfield County Public Health.”
Boebert said while she’s not leading any sort of organized movement against the current public health orders, she’s heard “whispers” of such a thing from other businesses. She said she hasn’t been involved in those conversations but would support more restaurants opening up.
The danger from the coronavirus “does not justify the economic suicide that is taking place,” she said.