Viva la downtown cantina! — new Rifle bar opens Friday
Flanking the subtle, woody glow of the back bar, Maria Vidrio smiled before splashing some ice into a rocks glass and long pouring a shot of whiskey through a plastic spout.
With six days until she opens the doors of her new downtown establishment — Rifle Bar — she’s gleaming with excitement.
“A lot of people are asking about it,” she said. “They’re so curious. They’re so anxious. It’s important for Rifle to have a place where people can go and relax.”
Throughout the past year, downtown Rifle endured COVID-19 as well as a major infrastructure overhaul that uprooted Third Street and caused major traffic congestion nearby without the presence of a true drinking establishment.
That all changes Friday as Rifle Bar hosts a soft opening.
Vidrio, proprietor of Jalisco Grill next door, earlier this year purchased the building’s former occupant, Texan Bar. Using downtown’s hindered foot traffic caused by construction as a good excuse to renovate, Vidrio spent the summer keeping the Texan’s familiar hometown feel while adding some new touches to its interior.
The former wooden back bar that used to greet guests with its large mirror is replaced by granite countertops, liquor shelves stacked to the ceiling and a brand new flatscreen TV installed at the back bar’s middle. More flatscreens intersperse the walls, while new light fixtures occupy the ceiling.
Vidrio’s business plan itself truly tries to seduce every corner of society.
“We’re planning to have different nights,” Vidrio said. “One day, I’ll have Latin night, another day will be a DJ, a happy hour, live bands, college nights. We’ll do what the people like. What works, doesn’t work.”
Remnants to remain from the former Texan, to name a couple, include its foosball and pool tables and as well as the shuffleboard table sitting toward the back.
While Jalisco next door serves authentic Mexican cuisine and signature drinks in clay cups, patrons of the new Rifle Bar can browse a modest menu complete with Git Along Little Doggies Steak Tacos, Do the Funky Chicken wings and a Bronco Billy Cheeseburger, among other wacky-named fare.
Before shuttering its doors, the Texan Bar on East Third Street was the only place downtown that catered to late-night crowds. But all year the front door was locked.
Meanwhile, Rifle’s overall bar and restaurant scene mostly caters toward dining.
Back in the day, old-timers or locals may remember the defunct bars of Rifle. To name a few, there was O’Leary’s Saloon, Big Kids Corner, Cheermeisters, Winchester Night Club and, of course, the Texan Bar. Some may also remember the Railroad Avenue establishment Farm Fresh Cafe & Steakhouse, where the owner used to host boxing and mud wrestling bouts.
“Five years ago there were four bars here,” Vidrio said. “That’s what people said.”
Now in comes Vidrio, a Latina originally from a small town in Mexico, to save the day for Rifle’s waning bar scene.
Vidrio originally comes from a bar family. Her late father, Joaquin, spent mornings tending his corn farm, then nights operating his small-town Mexico bar, La Cantina de Juco.
“It was the only bar in town where all the people go and drink,” Vidrio said. “There was only drinking, and there was no TV.”
“It would get crowded on weekends,” she added. “A lot of ‘borrachos.’”
Vidrio went on to graduate Universidad UNIVER in Guadalajara with degrees in business administration and tourism. In 2000, yearning to learn English, Vidria obtained a visa and moved to Los Angeles to live with immediate family. Vidrio also spent time in Washington state.
In 2007, Vidrio married her current husband, Armando. About six years ago, the couple moved to the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys after operating restaurants across Colorado, Vidrio said.
In October 2019, just five months before COVID-19 hit, Vidrio opened Jalisco Grill. The couple also operates another Jalisco Grill in Basalt.
“We were very, very new when we had to shut down,” she said. “We didn’t know if we were going to survive. It was scary.”
Since then, Vidrio has been busy.
A power drill sits atop the wooden bar. Next door, staff begin to prepare Jalisco for the day’s patrons.
Asked her thoughts on the future, Vidrio said she wants to retire young. With kids still in school, she also wants to bring her daughter to Europe in the near future.
But first, Vidrio has her sights set on the door opening to Rifle Bar.
“We’ve been working hard to make this happen,” Vidrio said with emotion. “I’ve been sacrificing a lot — family vacations, time. But I’m so proud.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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