Is It Last Call for Lauren Boebert’s Gun Restaurant?
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The institution at the center of Rep. Lauren Boebert's origin story now seems to face an uncertain future.
Shooters Grill, the gun-themed Hooters parody restaurant that popularized Rifle, Colorado and made Boebert a local celebrity, is having trouble with its new landlord -- a marijuana retailer.
But her landlord is not that new. And the story, having gone through multiple iterations over the past week, doesn't exactly add up.
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It appears the landlord has notified Boebert that he will be rescinding the lease on the restaurant at the end of August and packing Shooters. The rest is up in the air.
Boebert told The Daily Beast that she and her husband, Jayson Boebert, were surprised to receive notification last week that their lease would not be renewed. The building changed hands last month, she said, and now the shooters must either find new digs or close for good.
But the day after that notice arrived, an anti-Boebert political group somehow learned the timeline was even tighter -- two weeks, the group said, setting the potential fall just days before the Republican primary election.
Her coworkers hadn't heard about it, so Boebert struggled to quash the rumor, which she told The Daily Beast was gross misinformation. The truth, however, was clear: the restaurant she and her husband founded eight years ago was about to close.
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She didn't explain exactly why her business was kicked out. A person familiar with the arrangement said the property manager felt he had a "moral" imperative to close the business and was planning to rent the space to another restaurant.
Boebert once told The Daily Beast that she and her husband were "at peace" completing their run and had no plans to fight the order. But as the plot thickened politically, she bought herself some time.
Now she says she is considering two conflicting options: the original plan to close, or buying the building outright from the new owners. She won't say which one she and her husband will choose until after elementary school.
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Shooters were central to Boebert's rise to federal office, but it was not a financial success. The restaurant was posting a string of six-figure annual losses up until Boebert's election in 2020, struggling to stay afloat even after she rose to fame as a MAGA darling. She said it was a lot of work balancing the stress and drama of running a restaurant against her legislative duties 1,800 miles away, and she often reached out to her mother to help fill the gap. That struggle is partly why she initially viewed the closure as a blessing.
Jayson Boebert also seems to have his hands full. Between 2019 and 2020, when Shooters was losing money, he made nearly $1 million working shifts for oil and gas company Terra Energy — though Lauren Boebert appears to have reported the wrong source of that income in her federal financial statements.
Today, however, the Shooters website is down. The last time it appeared actively in an archive search was December 2021.
A buyout seems unusual — not only because the Boeberts apparently decided to close the deal less than a week ago, but also because the new owners bought the building less than a month ago. If they did decide to sell, it would be an almost immediate turnaround — morally and financially.
But they're not exactly new owners. In fact, it's the same family.
The company that took over the Shooters building, Milkin Enterprises, was incorporated days before the purchase, according to Colorado business records. And the two men on Milkin Enterprises' founding documents -- Mike Miller and Dan Meskin -- run a cannabis dispensary, Rifle Remedies, which, according to state records, shared a street address with Shooters until 2019.
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Boebert told The Daily Beast that Shooters had reduced his previous rent checks to Dan Meskin's father - Mike Meskin, who owned the building through Meskin Enterprises. She didn't mention Dan, who was named as the building's property manager in a 2016 local Post-Independent story.
It is not clear what morality the new owners are following. County records show the transfer of the father-son certificate occurred on May 26, two days after the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas. That same day, Boebert noted that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, "We didn't ban airplanes."
Just days after Boebert first burst into the national political spotlight for confronting Beto O'Rourke about gun control in Aurora, Colorado — the scene of a movie theater massacre — the Rifle Remedies storefront changed, according to state officials Business records her address from the Shooters building.
Neither Dan nor Mike Meskin appear to have made any political contributions. While Dan Meskin's wife isn't a big spender -- totaling about $225 in lifetime contributions -- she did give a few small gifts to Democrats trying to defeat Boebert in 2020 and last year. The other two Meskins do not appear to have made any political donations.
It's unclear why Boebert seems unfamiliar with the "new" owners, as she has indicated in phone calls. It's also unclear why these owners would not have known of Boebert, who claimed to have the "first option to purchase" the building - an option Mike Meskin and possibly his son Dan would have personally given her.
Boebert, who has repeatedly dismissed the possibility of a political motive behind the fall, did not say if she was offered the option to purchase. But she told The Daily Beast that Milkin Enterprises now appears open to a sale.
"He said, 'If you're still interested in buying, I'm interested in selling,'" she told The Daily Beast.
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But Shooters — whose gun-toting waitresses garnered international attention as a street novelty long before Boebert entered the political arena — has never lived high-priced.
According to Boebert's financial statements, the restaurant lost more than $600,000 in total between 2018 and 2020, and it appears to be struggling with annual tax obligations, resulting in a string of nearly $20,000 in liens, the Denver Post reported.
A series of articles in 2014 raised the new restaurant's profile and turned it into what a former employee described to The Daily Beast as something of a "tourist trap". Shooters has marketed itself as a Second Amendment-positive business, where waitresses carry loaded guns openly on their hips and serve dishes like a "Swiss and Wesson" sandwich.
"Customers love that they can come here and claim their rights," Boebert said in a 2014 CBC interview. "We called it 'shooter' and started throwing guns and Jesus everywhere."
However, some of those waitresses were too young to wear them - and a select few chose not to, a former worker told The Daily Beast. One of them appears to have been on probation for a year working at the restaurant and would have been banned from carrying a firearm.
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This former employee said that unlike some other servers, she would not pack a loaded gun at work and soon stopped carrying it altogether.
"I got tired of getting maple syrup on my Glock and running to the corner of the bar with my gun," she explained.
The Boeberts never seemed able to keep a firm grip, the clerk said, though they'd certainly put in the work, with Lauren Boebert sometimes even working shifts as cook.
And it was the Shooters' cooking — if not Boebert's — that got bad press in 2017, when the restaurant's pork pushers caused mass diarrhea at the Rifle Rodeo.
"I didn't eat anything that day because I saw who was cooking and I knew better," a former staffer told The Daily Beast.
“There were Mexicans back in the kitchen and if they cooked I would eat. But not this chef," she said, adding that the chef responsible for the food poisoning often "scratched his balls" at work and routinely "dropped food on the floor."
(The Daily Beast has not been able to independently verify these claims.)
Boebert's rise to household name, along with her aggressive advertising streak, seems to have helped propel the business forward over the past two years. While Shooters isn't exactly awash in cash, it's at least afloat for now.
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When asked about those finances, the first-term congresswoman told The Daily Beast that the grill is "not in the red" and paid his June rent.
"Does a restaurant ever make a profit?" Boebert joked. "No, we're fine. We're not in the red, we're in the black, so it's a lot better than last year."
Perhaps conveniently, however, the Boeberts filed the family decision until after the primary.
"I had a conversation with my husband and we decided that after the election we would meet and talk about buying the building," she said.
"That's in six days," she added.
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