RIFLE, Colo. — At Shooters Grill, you can decide whether your freshly made cherry pie comes with ice cream, but you have no choice on who delivers it: An armed waitress.
All nine of the servers at the restaurant pack heat as they shuttle plates of food to diners, from Glock semi-automatics to Ashlee Saenz's thigh-length Rueger Blackhawk .357 six-shooter. On the wall, posted alongside copies of the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, is a sign declaring that those inside are still "proudly clinging to my guns and Bible."
Owner Lauren Boebert, 27, says she didn't start out to make a statement when she began carrying a pistol on her hip a month after opening Shooters a year ago. But through the months, her other waitresses thought it was kind of fun and they, too, started carrying in this town of 9,200 about 180 miles west of Denver.
"We don't worship guns. We worship Jesus," said Boebert, a 27-year-old mother of four whose husband works in the oil industry. "We're here to serve people."
Word is getting around about the unusual service at the restaurant, which earlier this year won a series of readers-favorite awards from a local newspaper for its home-cooked food that includes all-day breakfast and prime rib.
A reporter sent to cover that story in late June instead highlighted Boebert, Saenz and the other waitresses. Curious customers started pouring in.
Monday afternoon, Robert Vedrenne ate an early dinner, drawn by that newspaper article in The (Rifle, Colo.) Citizen Telegram. A native Texan, Vedrenne wondered whether Boebert and her staff were just using guns to sell mediocre food.
They weren't. Menu items include the M16 burrito, the Swiss and Wesson grilled cheese, and "Locked and Loaded nachos."
"I wanted to see if this was gimmicky, or if it really was good food," said Vedrenne, who is temporarily living in the area for work. "And it was good. I'll be back."
Asked if he was bothered by the gun-carrying waitresses, Vedrenne twisted to the left, showing off the Beretta PX4 Storm .40 caliber pistol holstered at his side.
"I'm from Texas," he said. "This is normal."
And that's just how Boebert sees it. Rifle is hunting country with outfitters offering to help visitors track down and shoot elk and deer roaming the nearby high-country forests and canyons. Legend says the area got its name when a surveyor left his gun leaning against a tree and marked his map with "rifle" to remind himself where it was.
In May, the Denver-based Chipotle burrito chain asked gun owners to stop bringing guns into the company's stores following a series of demonstrations from strident Second Amendment supporters in Texas. And last year, Starbucks also asked gun owners to leave their weapons behind when buying coffee.
However, in Rifle Boebert said the local Starbucks franchisee has no problem when she walks in wearing her Springfield XDS .45.
Rifle has a low rate of violent crime, and Shooters' waitresses say they never expect to use their weapons, which are carried in holsters like ones police officers use to prevent people from grabbing them. Boebert said she just wanted to create a place where people like her would feel comfortable carrying their weapons publicly, as is their legal right in Colorado.
"There's no point to be made," Boebert said as her waitresses refilled ketchup bottles and wiped down menus, readying for the dinner rush. "This is our way of life."`
The restaurant also offers handgun safety classes to patrons, who get dinner and a four-hour seminar for $75. And while the waitresses' guns are loaded, they're under strict orders to keep safeties on and their weapons holstered unless there's a darn good reason to draw.
A sign on the front door welcomes armed patrons and asks them to abide by the same rules, but adds, "in such cases, judicious marksmanship appreciated."
Police Chief John Dyer told the The Citizen Telegram that he has no problem with the way Boebert is operating. The restaurant doesn't serve alcohol, and all of the waitresses have been safety certified to carry concealed weapons, even though they need no special permit to carry openly.
"If it was a bar, I might be saying something different," he told the paper. "And besides, they make a really good burger."
(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)