Pay Dirt is a weekly foray into the political finance fold. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox every Thursday.
It now appears that the establishment at the heart of Representative Lauren Poubert’s original story faces an uncertain future.
Shooters Grill, the Hooters parody restaurant named after the gun that put Rifle, Colorado, on the map and elevated Boebert to the status of local celebrity, ran into some trouble with its new property owner – a marijuana retailer.
But the landlord is not entirely new. And the story, which has gone through several iterations over the past week, doesn’t quite match up.
As it stands, the owner told Boebert he would cancel the restaurant’s lease at the end of August, and send Shooters to pack up. The rest is in the air.
Poubert told the Daily Beast that she and her husband, Jason Poubert, were surprised to receive notice last week that the lease was not being renewed. She said the building’s ownership changed hands last month, and now Shooters will either have to find new pits or close them permanently.
But the day after that notice arrived, an anti-Bibert political group got word that the timeline was even tighter — the group said two weeks, putting the prospect of an ouster just days before Republicans win the polls on primaries day.
Its staff hadn’t heard of it yet, so Weibert was quick to rescind the rumor she described to The Daily Beast as misinformation. However, the truth remained: the restaurant that she and her husband founded eight years ago was on the verge of closing.
Want a closer look inside the pockets of the most powerful players in government? Subscribe to the Pay Dirt newsletter here for exclusive reports every Thursday.
She did not explain exactly why her job was fired. A person familiar with the arrangement said the property manager felt he had a “moral” duty to close the business, and was planning to lease the place to another restaurant.
Poubert told The Daily Beast at one point that she and her husband were “at peace” with ending their tour, and they didn’t plan to fight the matter. But as the plot intensified politically, it bought some time.
Now she says she has two contradictory options: the original closing plan, or the purchase of the entire building from the new owners. She won’t say which she and her husband would choose until after the primaries.
The shooters were pivotal in Boebert’s rocket rise to Federal position, but it was not a financial success. The restaurant turned out in a series of six-figure annual losses leading up to the 2020 Boebert election, and struggled to stay above water even after she rose to fame as a MAGA sweetheart. She said there was so much work balancing tension and drama from running a restaurant versus her legislative duties 1,800 miles away, that she often found herself turning to her mother to pick up the slack. This conflict is why the closure was initially considered a blessing.
It also looks like Jason Poibert has his hands full. Between 2019 and 2020, when Shooters was losing money, he made nearly $1 million as a contract shift worker at oil and gas company Terra Energy — although Lauren Boebert appears to have misreported the source of that income in her federal financial disclosures.
Today, however, the Shooters website is down. The last time she appeared active in an archive search was December 2021.
The acquisition may seem unusual – not only because the Boeberts apparently decided less than a week ago that they were going to stop work – but also because the new owners bought the building less than a month ago. If they choose to sell, it will be almost instantaneous volatility – both morally and financially.
But they are not exactly new owners. In fact, it is the same family.
The company that acquired the Shooters building, Milkin Enterprises, was formed days before the purchase, according to Colorado trade records. The two men on Milkin Enterprises’ founding documents — Mike Miller and Dan Miskin — run a cannabis dispensary, Rifle Remedies, which until 2019 shared a street address with Shooters, according to state filings.
Boebert told The Daily Beast that the Shooters cut past rental checks for Dan Meskin’s father—Mike Miskin, who owned the building through Meskin Enterprises. She didn’t comment on Dan, whose name is mentioned in a local Post-independence Story from 2016 as a property manager for the building.
It is not clear what manners the new owners are. County records indicate that the transfer of the father and son deed took place on May 26, two days after the Robb Elementary School massacre in Ovaldi, Texas. On the same day, Poubert noted that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “we didn’t ban planes.”
A few days after Boebert first grabbed the national political spotlight for his confrontation with Beto O’Rourke over gun control in Aurora, Colorado — the site of a movie theater massacre — the Rifle Remedies storefront changed its address from the Shooters Building, according to government business records.
Neither Dan nor Mike Miskin appear to have made any political contributions. While Dan Miskin’s wife isn’t a big donor — about $225 total lifetime contributions — she has made some small gifts of dollars to Democrats trying to defeat Boebert in 2020 and last year. The other two Miskins do not appear to have made any political donations.
It’s unclear why Boebert appears unfamiliar with the “new” owners, as she suggested in the phone calls. It is also unclear why these owners were not familiar with Boebert, who claimed he had a “first choice to buy” the building – a choice that Mike Miskin, and possibly his son Dan, had personally given her.
Poubert, who repeatedly rejected the possibility of a political motive behind the overthrow, did not say whether she was offered this option to buy. But she told The Daily Beast that Milkin Enterprises now appeared to be open for sale.
“He said, ‘If you’re still interested in buying, I’m interested in selling,'” she told The Daily Beast.
But the shooters—whose waitresses packing their guns attracted international attention as a roadside novelty long before Boebert entered the political arena—never lived far from the pigs.
The restaurant lost more than $600,000 in total between 2018 and 2020, according to Boebert’s financial disclosures, and appears to have struggled with annual tax liabilities, incurring a number of franchises totaling nearly $20,000, the Denver Post reported.
A series of articles in 2014 boosted the restaurant’s innovative image, turning it into something of a “tourist trap,” as a former employee of The Daily Beast described it. Shooters has marketed itself as a Second Amendment positive, in which waitresses open hip-loaded firearms and serve menu items like a “Swiss and Wesson” sandwich.
“Customers love being able to come here and express their rights,” Boebert said in a 2014 CBC interview. “We called them ‘shooters’ and started throwing guns and Jesus everywhere.”
However, some of these waitresses were too young to get pregnant — and a few chose not to get pregnant, a former worker told The Daily Beast. One of them appears to have been on probation for a year she worked in the restaurant, and she could have been banned from carrying a firearm.
This ex-employee said that, unlike some other servers, she wouldn’t pack a loaded gun at work, and soon she stopped carrying them altogether.
“I was tired of getting maple syrup on my Glock, and my pistol was fired at a bartop corner,” she explained.
The employee said the Boeberts never seemed to be able to keep a steady fist, although they would certainly put in the work, even Lauren Boebert at times pulling shifts as a chef.
And it was the Shooters’ cooking — though not Boebert’s — that caught on badly in 2017, when the restaurant’s pork sliders caused mass diarrhea on the Rifle Rodeo.
“I didn’t eat that day, because I saw who was cooking and I knew very well,” a former employee told The Daily Beast.
“There were Mexicans in the kitchen, and if they were cooking, I would eat. But not that cook,” she said, adding that the chef responsible for food poisoning often “scratches his balls” at his job and routinely “throws food on the floor.”
(The Daily Beast has not been able to independently substantiate these claims.)
Boebert’s promotion to the family name, combined with her robust advertising operation, appears to have helped prop up her business over the past two years. While bowlers don’t exactly swim in cash, at least they are now above water.
When asked about those finances, the first-term congresswoman told the Daily Beast that the grill “isn’t in the red,” and she made her lease in June.
Is a restaurant making a profit? Poiper joked. “No, we’re fine. We’re not in the red, we – we’re in the black, so it’s a lot better than last year.”
It is perhaps pertinent, however, that Boeberts has brought forward the family’s decision even after the primaries.
“I had a conversation with my husband and we decided that after the election we would get together and talk about maybe buying the building,” she said.
“This is within six days,” she added.
Subscribe to the Pay Dirt newsletter here to keep track of the movement of dirty dollars affecting our public policy.