‘This is our bar’ say Sandbar patrons in Vail
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Two women in Vail brought a tray of warm meat pies. A few others sent cards. Domino’s dropped off pizzas. The employees of Sports Authority, located next door, dropped off cookies. And yet others simply came, sidled up to the bar and ordered a Bud Light, the same as they do a few nights a week, if not more.
The sentiment was all the same: We support you.
The Sandbar Sports Grill reopened for business around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Veterans Day, four days after a Vietnam veteran, Richard ‘Rossi’ Moreau, allegedly shot four people.
Josh Carbo, the Sandbar’s bar manager, asked a shaman to come and cleanse the space before reopening, he said.
Isabella Tara Rochone, who calls herself a “ceremonial practitioner,” spent an hour at the Sandbar with her friend Pamela Smith doing a “clearing” late Wednesday afternoon. Though she’s performed thousands of similar ceremonies, this was the first time a bar had called her following a shooting, she said.
“I was called and I came,” she said, standing next to a bar table covered with a black cloth and a myriad of crystals and candles. A lit candle and a shot glass of Jack Daniels whiskey sat in front of each of the three chairs at the table. Rochone said the three seats represented Moreau; Gary Kitching, the Carbondale resident who died on Saturday night; and another victim, Jim Lindley, of Vail, who is in critical condition at Denver Health hospital.
“This man has suffered for years and years in his own prison and now he’ll be going to prison,” Rochone said, gesturing towards the candle representing Moreau.
Rochone had one hope for people as they return to the Sandbar.
“I want them to pause for a second, and think about the hate they’ve held in their own hearts for others and let it go,” she said. “It’s time for pause and reflection.”
Travis Moody was the first patron in the door as Rochone packed her things to leave. Fitting, he said, considering he was of the first people who ran out the back door of the Sandbar on Saturday night, he said.
“I saw the sign on the door last night saying they were going to reopen and I said why not?”
His friend Paul Elliott stood to his left, next to the barstools they were sitting in on Saturday night, near the bar’s main entrance. Both men are from Florida and have spent the last few months living on the fourth floor of the nearby Holiday Inn, working construction at the Ritz-Carlton project in Vail.
“Guess what,” Elliott said, pointing towards the rear of the bar. “I can fit under that pool table back there.” He laughed uneasily as he pointed at the spot where he hid after the gunshots started.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to come back or not, but I thought what the hell,” Elliott continued.
The same sign hung above the bar that was hanging Saturday, advertising the evening’s special: $9.95 8 oz. sirloin.
“That’s what we came in for, the sirloin special,” Elliott said, pointing at the sign.
“Though it was free the last time,” Moody said. “That was the first time I ever ran out on a tab.”
Wearing a sling on his left arm, shorts and flip flops, Jason Barber, the Sandbar’s manager, walked through the door just after 5 p.m., his mother and sister just a few steps behind him. Barber was shot in the arm Saturday night and has spent the last few days in the hospital where he’s had a constant stream of visitors. Patrons at the bar turned to watch as people streamed toward the front of the bar to hug him.
“I’m just so glad you’re alive,” a blonde woman said as she hugged him carefully.
While some employees hung Christmas decorations from the walls – garland, wreaths and the like, people took turns talking to Barber. They shook his hand, hugged him, cried with him.
“For some people, the Sandbar is the center of the community,” said Cody Butters, who works at the Sandbar on Sundays. “I’m a transplant. We’re all transplants here and this is the roots,” she said gesturing towards the people sitting at the bar. “I didn’t know about opening so soon, but I’m so glad to see all these people, and I’m so glad to see Jason.”
For bar owner Eric Leitstein, it was a relief to see the crowded bar. As he drove to Vail after the shooting on Saturday night, he worried about a whole slew of things, including if people would return to his bar after such a tragic event, he said.
“But people have said to me, ‘No way, this is our bar,'” Leitstein said.
For those impressed that Barber was willing to stop by the Sandbar for a visit so soon after being released from the hospital, he had two words.
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.