Workers lose appetite for politics, cafe owner says

Having the name of a retired Denver Broncos great affiliated with it long has helped serve as a draw to VJ’s Outlaw Ribbs in Parachute.

Now, allowing for the names of national and local Democratic candidates to be posted outside the eatery, and for the party to hold an event inside, is costing it serious business, one of its operators says.

“A lot of the guys from the oil and gas companies are no longer coming here, and they were our primary business for the seven years that we’ve been here,” said Jean Johnson, mother of former Bronco receiver Vance Johnson.

Vance also is involved with the business along with his father, Geno.

She said business dropped by more than half just after VJ’s let Democrats hold a meet-and-greet with local candidates at the restaurant Oct. 13.

She said she’s been forced to cut the hours of her 18 employees.

The restaurant also has let Republicans meet there, she said.

“We haven’t had any backlash with that,” she said.

Democrats also put up some campaign signs outside the restaurant.

“That’s what made everybody go crazy,” said Battlement Mesa Democrat Joe Hawkins.

Johnson said the restaurant let people put up signs from each party, including ones for Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan.

Kim Doyle Wille, a Carbondale Democrat and friend of the Johnsons, said some oil and gas workers’ comments to the Johnsons suggested WPX Energy and Encana USA may have been involved in the boycott.

Said Encana spokesman Doug Hock, “I can tell you categorically that it’s not something Encana would have endorsed or encouraged.”

Susan Alvillar of WPX Energy said her company “would never direct employees to boycott a business for any reason,” and doesn’t condone such actions by its employees.

She said the Johnsons are good friends and business partners of WPX, whose employees “enjoy their food both in the restaurant and at our office regularly.”

Lou Nolan, kitchen manager at Shommy’s Restaurant in Parachute, said he’d heard energy workers say they couldn’t support VJ’s “because Obama doesn’t support the gas fields and that’s our livelihood.”

He said his wife, Shawna, Shommy’s owner, declined to let any political signs be posted outside that restaurant.

“It’s like talking politics and religion, you’re bound to lose because there’s always going to be somebody who’s going to have a different opinion than you and you’re not going to change their mind,” he said.

Wille said the boycotters are hurting a Republican — Vance Johnson.

“People just need to stop and realize that the election is over. There were clear winners and losers, and now the Johnsons are being made to lose because of the people and their politics.”

Vance Johnson just shut down his new Grand Junction restaurant, Vance’s Epic-Curious, 115 W. Grand Ave. Suite A, while leaving employees unpaid.

He couldn’t be reached for comment.


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