Hospitality & Tourism  January 9, 2023

Gafners to open downtown Longmont burger bar in April

LONGMONT – Sean and Rebecca Gafner, a husband-and-wife ownership team that already has three successful restaurants in Longmont, will open a new downtown eatery, 99_bar Burgers & Beer, at 449 Main St. in mid- to late April.

“Just a simple concept,” Sean Gafner said. “TVs on the wall, 55 seats, just a fun place to have a burger and a beer.”

The Gafner Hospitality Group runs The Roost at 526 Main St. and Jefes Tacos & Tequila at 246 Main St., as well as Swaylo Tiki Restaurant at 1315 Dry Creek Drive. In 2019 it had opened Smokin’ Bowls in the 1,500-square-foot space that 99_bar will soon occupy, but closed it a couple years later while still retaining use of the kitchen in the back of the space. Last August, the Gafners rented the storefront portion to Jennifer Ferguson, owner of the Bricks gift shop at 512 Fourth Ave., for a pop-up store called Beth’s Bath Shoppe. Beth’s has closed, Sean Gafner said, and that space is being renovated for the burger-and-beer restaurant.

He told BizWest he expected 99_bar to employ about 12 people.

Sean Gafner said the name comes from a cattle brand his grandfather and father had on their ranch in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

“In 1930, Frank Gafner was a teenage cowboy learning how to raise cattle,” Sean Gafner said. “He had a buddy with a brand of 91_bar, so when it came time for him to create his own cattle brand, the decision was obvious: just make it a bit greater than that.”

Frank’s oldest son and Sean’s father, Randy Gafner, was 8 years old when the 99_bar brand was transferred into his name.

“It was important that this brand stayed in the family,” Sean Gafner said. “My dad grew up to use this brand on his own cattle, as well as anything else that needed a good lookin’ signature.”

Running the new restaurant will be a family affair as well, he said.

“Our two sons, Caleb and Ryder, who have grown up cooking in our other restaurants, will be running the burger grill, making 99_bar a four-generation brand,” Sean Gafner said.

The meat they will be grilling will be locally sourced.

“I was raised on the 99_bar cattle ranch but we don’t raise our own anymore,” he said. “However, our good friends, Buckner Family Ranch, do it as well as anybody, and we are honored to only feature their grass-fed beef, lamb and pork. We’ll also make delicious chicken wings and fresh-cut fries and feature many of Longmont’s delicious craft beers.”

Those beef and lamb burgers will run $13 and $14, respectively, for a double.

“We use the ingredients that we’re actually proud of,” Gafner said. “I’m sure there are ingredients people are using that are more affordable, but I don’t know anything about those products, because I believe the importance of the ingredient, the importance of the product, is a high value. It’s definitely a high value to our company, and it’s a high value to our customers, and I believe that’s a trend that’s going to continue.”

But such standards aren’t cheap, he said.

The new restaurant won’t open until April, but Sean and Rebecca Gafner already have the menu planned. Courtesy Gafner Hospitality Group

“To keep doing ingredients that are local and sustainable and of better quality, it’s just really expensive, so I’m just done, I’m not doing a discount. Discounts don’t exist any more,” Gafner said, “even if my burger ends up being $19 because it’s a great cow that’s raised right here, and we make the bread and we make the pickles. If you don’t want a $19 burger, I totally understand that, but I just don’t want to serve a $10 burger because I don’t want that product in my restaurant.

“I think a lot of people are still going to be going out and spending money on dining out, but they’re going to want to feel good about what they’re spending it on. So that whole quality of ingredients is going to keep becoming more and more important,” he said, noting that more diners are looking for “restaurants that are more conscious of environmental sustainability, locality, things like that, restaurants that are using compostables instead of single-use plastic.

“Hundreds of decisions that we make mean people are a bit more proud to spend their money there instead of somewhere else,” Gafner said. “I do believe that trend is getting stronger.”

LONGMONT – Sean and Rebecca Gafner, a husband-and-wife ownership team that already has three successful restaurants in Longmont, will open a new downtown eatery, 99_bar Burgers & Beer, at 449 Main St. in mid- to late April.

“Just a simple concept,” Sean Gafner said. “TVs on the wall, 55 seats, just a fun place to have a burger and a beer.”

The Gafner Hospitality Group runs The Roost at 526 Main St. and Jefes Tacos & Tequila at 246 Main St., as well as Swaylo Tiki Restaurant at 1315 Dry Creek Drive. In 2019 it had opened Smokin’ Bowls in the 1,500-square-foot…