Guns, grub on the menu at Shooters Grill in Colorado

by Emily Kask
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Owner Lauren Boebert poses for a portrait at Shooters Grill, the restaurant she owns in Rifle, Colorado, where carrying a firearm is encouraged

The kitchen at Shooters Grill is not the only thing packing heat.

The waitresses do too.

And so do many of the customers.

"Guns are welcome on premises," reads a sign on the front door of the burger joint in the aptly-named Colorado town of Rifle -- population, 9,500.

"Warning: This is not a gun free zone," reads a sign in the wood-paneled restaurant. "God Bless America," says another.

Six-shooters and rifles adorn the walls along with American flag imagery and pictures of Hollywood cowboy icon John Wayne.

Shooters Grill owner Lauren Boebert opened the restaurant with her husband, Jason, in 2013.

Shortly after the opening, a man was beaten to death nearby and Boebert said she began questioning how to keep herself and her employees safe.

"What do I do to protect me and my people?" she said. "I could call the police but would they even come out in time?"

Boebert said she sought advice from Edward Wilks, the owner of the Tradesmen gun store and pawn shop located conveniently next door.

Wilks explained that Colorado was an "open carry" state allowing for certain firearms to be carried openly.

She said she started strapping on a gun, a Taurus Judge revolver, the next day.

"It just felt right," she said. "The customers didn't bat an eye."

Several of her waitresses asked her a few weeks later if they could carry a gun as well, Boebert said.

That eventually evolved into the "open carry" theme which characterizes the restaurant today.

"It wasn't supposed to be a gimmick," Boebert said. "It was just about protecting you and us."

Jessie Spaulding, a Shooters waitress with a nose ring and a pink headband, wears a pistol holstered on her hip as she serves customers their burgers and fries.

The gun theme even carries over to the menu, which offers a Swiss & Wesson burger with sauteed onions, mushrooms and Swiss cheese for $11.99.

There's also the Guac 9 burger, which comes with "Glock-a-mole," also for $11.99.

Those not in the mood for a burger could go for the Ruger Reuben, a corned beef sandwich, for $12.49.

Owner Lauren Boebert poses for a portrait at Shooters Grill, the restaurant she owns in Rifle, Colorado, where carrying a firearm is encouraged

Jessie Spaulding, a waitress at Shooters Grill, serves customers in the "open carry theme" restaurant in Rifle, Colorado

Waitress Jessie Spaulding serves customers at Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado on April 24, 2018

Waitress Jessie Spaulding (R) jokes with customers at Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado on April 24, 2018

Waitress Jessie Spaulding poses for a portrait with a burger at Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado on April 24, 2018

Cooks serve up orders at Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado on April 24, 2018

Diners eat at the counter at Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado on April 24, 2018

An interior view of Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado is seen on April 24, 2018

A signature stamped burger at Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado

Diners walk into Shooters Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, where the waitresses are armed and customers are welcome to carry weapons

Regular customer Paul Incze carries his gun on his hip while he dines at Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado

An overlooking view of Rifle, Colorado on April 24, 2018, where Lauren Boebert opened Shooters Grill in 2013 with her husband Jason

Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado is right next door to Tradesmen Gun Store and Pawnshop

A painting of a gun sits above the soft drink machines at Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado on April 24, 2018

Signs on the door handles at Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado on April 24, 2018 tell customers guns are welcome on the premises

Customers dine by Second Amendment themed wall decor inside Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado on April 24, 2018