On The Road With RL Reeves Jr: Lariat Saloon In Grand Lake Colorado (est. 1924)

On The Road With RL Reeves Jr: Lariat Saloon in Grand Lake, Colorado

The front page of the Denver Post laid everything out in stark terms: Black bears are out and are being unusually aggressive. Please exercise caution.

Time to forego a long alpine hike through the mountains, and head into downtown Grand Lake, Colorado where I can tilt a few cold longnecks, and eat a bacon cheeseburger.

Prudence in all things.

The Lariat Saloon opened in downtown Grand Lake Colorado in 1924. 55 year old William Ellery Sweet was in the governor’s office, and the town itself was not yet 50 years old. Scarcely a million people called Colorado home back then.

Grand Lake is quiet. It’s high season but the town is barely stirring. When I step inside the darkened barroom I’m the only person in the saloon. The nice gal barkeep asks what I’ll have and soon enough a cold Banquet beer is set down in front of me.

1121 Grand Ave, Grand Lake, CO 80447

The bar is “closed for hangings” as one wooden sign touts. Since the last public execution in Colorado occurred when the state took the life of Andrew Green on July 27th 1886, I reckon the sign is little more than whimsy.

Green had killed Denver City Railway Company driver Joseph C Whinah in the commission of robbing him in downtown Denver. No whimsy in that. Some 15,000 people watched Green die.

John Denver comes on the hi fi. I have yet to spend more than 30 minutes in any establishment in Colorado without hearing him booming across the speakers. Slowly, a few fellow tourist begin filtering in. The cook has arrived and begins busying himself with getting the grill open.

“I’ll have a bacon cheeseburger, mayo and onion with pickles on the side”

Lariat Saloon in Grand Lake Colorado was established in 1924

Nathaniel Rateliff takes his turn on the stereo. The Lariat really likes their Colorado music.

A beast of a sandwich arrives. I’m starving so I immediately tack in. A well-cooked beef patty is crisscrossed with two flabby bacon strips. I quit eating crispy bacon years ago so I content myself with what most folks would call medium rare bacon.

I wonder what the grill man would’ve cooked for a trail-dust covered traveler in 1924? Elk, moose or bear?

Glenn Miller comes on the speakers. I didn’t know he was from Colorado, and it turns out he’s not. But he did matriculate right up the road in Boulder in the 20s, and I’m beginning to sense a theme from my barmaid.

Lariat Saloon’s telephone number is (970) 627-9965

Folks wander into and out of the old tavern. Time passes slowly in Grand Lake and there’s a lassitude to the place that I find agreeable.

If I lived in these hills this would be a nice place to while away a life.

The nearby lake is the coldest, deepest one in all of Colorado, and after a few cold Banquet beers it suddenly sounds appealing.

Soon I return home to Louisiana’s 9th Ward where my home sits at nine feet below sea level.

I head outside; not to see a hanging or get in a fistfight with a black bear. Just to amble down to the lakeside and revel in being in the highest state in all of U.S.

Grand Lake Colorado was established in 1881

Lariat Saloon
1121 Grand Ave
Grand Lake, Colorado

(970) 627-9965

Hours of operation
Always call ahead

About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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