Eateries feeling the effects of slowdown in the oil, gas industry |

Eateries feeling the effects of slowdown in the oil, gas industry

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado ” The restaurant business in western Garfield County isn’t what it was just a few months ago.

Grady Hazelton first noticed business was a “little off” this past hunting season at his restaurant in Rifle.

WingNutz Bar and Grill, which Hazelton owns, is usually a popular spot for hunters during the season. But this past season, as much of the nation was already in the thick of an economic slowdown, the effects had finally reached Rifle.

“I definitely didn’t see the hunters we’ve had in the years past,” Hazelton said.

The low numbers of hunters was just the beginning. Hazelton said the year’s slower months, November and December, were even slower than usual.

Area restaurants had enjoyed years of packed booths and tables as the energy industry workers crowded the towns of western Garfield County. But with energy companies cutting back on production in several states, including Colorado, the pinch is being felt everywhere.

“Some of the faces of our regulars have changed,” Hazelton said. “There is change for sure.”

Some of his past regulars who have recently moved from the area even called him to say that they hoped to be back some day.

Across town at Fiesta Guadalajara, November and December were actually pretty normal, according to manager Sergio Flores.

Farther west in the town of Parachute, the impacts of fewer energy workers is more apparent at VJ’s Outlaw Ribbs.

“We’ve been affected. Our sales are way down,” said manager Jean Johnson. “That’s about it. We don’t have the breakfast or the dinner crowds that we used to.”

Johnson said that VJ’s had a huge breakfast, lunch and dinner crowd of energy industry employees but, “They are all gone, now.”

Because of the decrease in customers, some of the restaurants have had to adjust their business, but, at least for these three restaurants, they have yet to reduce their staff size.

“We still have a full staff, we just don’t work them as many hours,” Johnson said. “We don’t need people standing around if there’s no work.”

Hazelton said that he’s had two people quit and has not filled those positions, but that it was just because of the time of year and not directly due to the economy.

He also said that January was better than usual, showing signs of a strong 2009. He hasn’t done much in the way of trying to entice customers to increase business just yet, either.

“We try to do a few different promotions just to change things up a little, but it’s not gotten to that point yet,” Hazelton said.

Johnson said that she is, “Just praying to get through it.”

According to Flores, Fiesta Guadalajara will be fine as long as the locals continue to eat out.

“A lot of locals still come in,” Flores said. “We are here for the community, and if they keep coming in, we’ll be OK.”

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

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