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Leadville Cherokee to headline New Year’s Eve at The Lariat

After several dark years of uncertainty, the fate of The Lariat was all but assured going into 2022. The town of Buena Vista desperately wanted to see the lights back on at The Rope, but it just wasn’t that simple.

Money, legal discussions, and uncertainty about the future crippled the idea that The Lariat would ever reopen its doors again.

The Lariat is a long-running fixture in Buena Vista, and customers are glad to be back on their barstools. Photo courtesy Dan Cooper.

However, against all odds, and with unwavering hope, The Lariat held its official grand reopening the weekend of May 13, 2022.

With a weekend-long bill of incredible music, which saw the reunion of Colorado mainstays Grant Farm, a brand new food and cocktail menu, and familiar faces young and old, the old red brick of The Lariat felt like you were home again.

Now seven months down the road, The Lariat appears to be going stronger than ever and looking to the future with an unbridled sense of hope and direction.

“We’re very thankful and grateful people came back. We’re so happy we are back. If anything, we’re feeling even better about the future”, said Lariat owner Court Johnson, with obvious heartwarming gratitude.

Ove the summer, almost as if COVID had never happened, live music acts old and new started jumping at the opportunity to play within the historic walls of The Lariat. Familiar bands like Grant Farm, Fruition, and Leadville Cherokee once again graced the Lariat’s marquee facing East Main Street.

Leadville Cherokee, Landon James photo

In addition, fantastic new acts like the Lucas Parker Band, began staking their own claim to the Lariat bringing original music to locals and tourists alike. Almost instantly, the Lariat reclaimed the mantle of musical discovery and diversity that made it famous for so long.

“We started from scratch rebuilding, but feel we have more momentum than ever. On the music front we’re feeling better than ever,” explained Johnson.

Despite the music being as good as ever, the Lariat faced some staffing challenges that are unfortunately all too common for small business owners in Buena Vista.

After losing a kitchen manager midway through the summer, the pressure began to mount as tourists continued pouring in night after night. Despite being short-staffed, the Lariat owners say they continued to deliver the service and hospitality that locals and visitors had come to love and remember.

According to Johnson, they’ve recently filled the kitchen manager position with someone they believe will take the Lariat far beyond its goal of being a high-class casual dining experience.

The bar at the Lariat in Buena Vista stands shining and ready for the community. Photo by Hannah Harn.

With a fresh new start in the kitchen, the Lariat is also revamping its current menu with new soups, salads, cocktails, appetizers (try the delicious “Flyin’ Pigs” bone-in pork shanks with coyote sauce for a treat), and entrees such as the pork chop and the Nashville hot chicken sandwich.

Johnson’s son JP (and fellow Managing Partner) has also been integral in transforming the Lariat’s dining and cuisine into something that is quickly making the Lariat as much a food destination as it is a music one. With equilibrium returning to the kitchen, and the live music scene as strong as ever, the Lariat owners say they are ready to plow through the slower, colder months when most businesses in Buena Vista (BV) suffer.

“We’re set up to charge through the winter,” said Managing Partner Zach Alexander.

Alexander, whose focus is generally on music/brand relations, has been instrumental in maintaining the homely and familiar vibe that so many locals remember, and that tourists have come to love.

Hometown musical favorites Leadville Cherokee have been regulars at the Lariat and graced its stage countless times over the years. As a crucial part of the grand reopening weekend in May 2022, Leadville Cherokee played two shows in the last seven months at the Lariat and is scheduled to ring in the New Year this coming Saturday, December 31 with local BV band Airing of Grievances. To put it simply, Leadville Cherokee and the Lariat are two peas in a pod.

“We’ve always loved the Lariat and have been a part of the Lariat family for many years now,” said lead guitarist/vocals of Leadville Cherokee Mark Niernberger. “Zach and Court are our brothers. We want to support the Lariat however we can.”

Despite residents and Lariat regulars referring to them as the hometown musical heroes, Leadville Cherokee jokes that they’re more of the local anti-heroes.

In fact, COVID found Leadville Cherokee’s momentum slowing to a crawl as live concerts quickly became a thing of the past. With the Lariat closed, maybe for good, there weren’t many other stages in the Valley that Leadville Cherokee could call home.

Peter Albrecht, lead vocals/fiddle/guitar, explained that at times, their future felt just as uncertain as the Lariat’s. However, when Leadville Cherokee got invited to play with Chain Station for the reopening weekend, it revitalized the band in a way its members hadn’t felt for almost two years. Albrecht said the Lariat’s reopening inspired Leadville Cherokee to start regularly practicing again, composing exciting setlists, and gave them a safe space to experiment with new material once more.

“It’s just a really good place to make music,” said Albrecht.

It could be said that with the overwhelming love and support of BV and its locals, the Lariat has seen a comeback from a situation that would have crushed most businesses/venues. With Johnson, Alexander, and JP at the helm the Lariat appears to be building critical mass and the only place to go is up.

However, at the core of it all, is a deep desire to maintain the Lariat as the “Community Living Room”, as Johnson likes to call it. “We’re welcoming people into our home. We’re grateful and excited for the future,” said Johnson with obvious conviction.

To stay in the loop about all the upcoming live music and events going on at the Lariat, follow their events calendar here.

The menu of new food and drink offerings available at the Lariat can be found here.

If you’re looking to celebrate the New Year at the Lariat, tickets to see Leadville Cherokee and Airing of Grievances can also be bought here.