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Longmont couple to open fourth restaurant

The Gafner's to open Tiki-themed restaurant in former Outback Steakhouse location
Sean and Rebecca Gafner, owners of The Roost, Jefe's Tacos and Tequila and Smokin Bowls in downtown Longmont, stand infront of the building of their next restaurant venture on Oct. 7. Swaylo's Tiki Restaurant and Bar will open in Southwest Longmont in spring 2022. Photo by Ali Mai

Chef Sean and Rebecca Gafner — owners of the popular eateries The Roost, Jefe's Tacos and Tequila, and Smokin Bowls — are opening their fourth restaurant in Longmont: Swaylo’s Tiki Restaurant and Bar

The Tiki-themed restaurant is at 1315 Dry Creek Road, the former Outback Steakhouse that shuttered earlier this year. Swaylo’s will be the Gafner’s first restaurant concept off of Main Street and first in Southwest Longmont. They are anticipating the opening sometime in the spring.

The Gafner’s, transplants from California, have lived in Southwest Longmont since moving to the city seven years ago. To pay homage to their home in Longmont, they are naming the restaurant Swaylo’s, a term they've heard their neighbors call the area.

“It's just what we call this area of Longmont and we're excited to kind of spread that around and let the rest of Longmont and the rest of Colorado know how cool Southwest Longmont is,” Sean said.

Since moving to Longmont, Sean set a soft goal to open five restaurants within a decade. With three establishments, starting with The Roost in 2015 and Swaylo’s opening next year, the objective is nearly met.

The Gafner’s have been planning on a Tiki-themed restaurant since 2018. They imagine Swaylo’s to be a destination for families and friends to share a plate, have a tropical cocktail and have fun escaping to an island experience in landlocked Colorado.

Their staff throughout their company enables them to open their fourth restaurant, Sean said. The couple said that management for Swaylo’s will be hired from their existing employees. 

“We won't hire any management that aren't already people working for us,” Sean said. “That's one thing we really are passionate about, is people being able to grow within our company.”

Between Swaylo’s and replacing staff at the other three restaurants who may transfer to the new establishment, Sean said he will likely hire at least 100 new employees.

Swaylo’s cuisine is inspired by their trips to tropical regions and Sean’s culinary experience cooking fresh seafood from the Pacific Ocean when they lived in California. 

Seafood and tropical fruits will be highlighted on the menu. The surf will have turf items including steaks, burgers and chicken dishes.The Roost is a whiskey restaurant and Jefe’s is a tequila place, Sean said, so he plans on Swaylo’s to be rum-centric. Tiki-themed cocktails and about 100 rums will be served at the bar.

Along with picking the old Outback Steakhouse building for its location in Southwest Longmont, the Gafner’s were drawn to it because it reminds them of a square hut. They plan on covering the rooftop with thatch and painting the exterior to resemble a Tiki hut.

Swaylo’s will be the Gafner’s most thematic restaurant concept. Rebecca, who has taken creative lead on the couple’s restaurant designs, plans on Polynesian and Pacific Island inspired decor with nautical elements, including Tiki masks, ropes and anchors and totem poles. There may or may not be a giant pirate ship structure, the Gafner’s said.

“We want everyone to walk in and feel like they're on an island somewhere,” Rebecca said. 

Though Swaylo's is Tiki-themed, the design will pull from several influences. Mood-setting lighting and tinted windows will invoke a “mystical feel.” The goal for the restaurant design is to take guests on a tropical journey that transcends any specific place.

“It's gonna feel like you could be anywhere in the world, and then you'll walk out and remember you're in Southwest Longmont,” Sean said.


Ali Mai

About the Author: Ali Mai

Ali Mai is freelance writer and photographer, covering business for the Longmont Leader. She writes the weekly column "Longmont Local."
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