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Gafner mixes history with the present in vision for new dive bar

99_bar set to open in April
Sean Gafner

For the last nine years, Sean and Rebecca Gafner have been an integral part of the Longmont dining scene. In April the couple plan to add a new name to their collection of restaurant brands, 99_bar, Burgers and Beer, at 449 Main Street. 

Recently, Sean Gafner talked to the Leader about what diners can expect and what the venture will mean to his family.

Longmont Leader: You’ve created a California-inspired American restaurant and bar at The Roost, a tiki bar at Swaylo’s, and a taco restaurant at Jefe’s Tacos and Tequila. Now you’re opening a burger place in 99_bar. Why?

Gafner: Choosing burgers for 99_bar is similar to why we chose tacos at Jefes. We saw people liked them at the Roost. 

To ensure that they’re delicious, we partner with Buckner Farms, also located in Longmont.  It’s where all our beef, pork and lamb come from for our other restaurants and they have standards that are non-negotiable for us. 

Longmont Leader: 99_bar will be opening at the same address that Smokin’ Bowls used to be in. Why did you pick this location?

Gafner: Though we didn’t make fast casual work there, we still love the building. The location is important to us for a lot of reasons including the fact that it houses our bakery. This time, though, we wanted to try something completely different. 99_bar is going to feel more like a modern dive bar with really great food. We’re taking out some walls to make a little bit more space so that we can have big cozy furniture like western saloon tables, leather tufted chairs and barstools. It’ll be a 55-seat location.

Longmont Leader: Did you say modern dive bar? Because modern is the last thing I think of when I hear the term “dive bar.”

Gafner: By dive bar, I mean really comfortable, a little bit darker, and a place you can go to get a $3 beer and hang out with your friends. But we’re also going to evolve it. 

We’ll set a high bar for the food we serve using hyper-local ingredients. Everything from the bread we make to the pickles we add and the meat we serve will be from right here in Longmont. Oh, and there will be ice cream here. 

Longmont Leader: A dive bar with ice cream?

Gafner: We have an amazing pastry chef in Shelley Katz. She was at Greenbrier for seven or eight years and has been our pastry chef since 2019. And so all the desserts, all of the ice cream, the churros, the breads and such that are at our other restaurants are made by her. It will be the same at 99_bar.

Longmont Leader: So, let’s talk about the details of the location. How did it get its name?

Gafner: I named it after the cattle brand that has been in my family since the 1930s when my grandpa Frank started selling his own cattle for the first time. 

Growing up, that's the cattle brand that was on all of our livestock. Using it represents how it is just us and the ranch doing a simple little thing really well. 

In the restaurant, there'll be pictures of me as a kid working cattle and my dad as a kid working cattle and my kids on horses. We’ll really be tying in my history of growing up on a cattle ranch.

Longmont Leader: I also heard your kids are working at the restaurant with you. 

Gafner: Yup. Actually, the oldest three have worked in our restaurants for years. My 17-year-old son is a cook, in fact, he’s the grill cook at Swaylo’s. And they all love it. 

My 17-year-old really wants to be a chef and to go to culinary school and so I want to spend some time with him, you know really teaching him the intricacies of running a kitchen. This smaller location will be a great place for me to be able to work really side-by-side with him and his brother. Teach them some things.

Longmont Leader: That's fantastic. And so, what are the kinds of burgers that you're going to be having at this place?

Gafner: A few burgers like you know, The Colorado with roasted green chilis, and The Western with onion rings, barbecue sauce and bacon. 

But it’s also a build-your-own burger type of place where you know you can pick whatever toppings you want. We’ll also make a really great, fried chicken sandwich and chicken wings, french fries and house-made milkshakes.


Editor's note: a previous version of this article reported the bar's address at 499 Main Street, that has been corrected to 449 Main Street.