I met up recently with a long-time photographer friend at his studio. We were sitting around and when he reached to grab something on his desk, I noticed he had a gun holstered to his belt. It freaked me out. He smiled and explained that his job takes him to dicey areas at night where crime activity is high, so he bought a gun to protect himself. He also explained that he has gone through extensive training to learn how to handle and shoot a gun. He’s a relatively sane and sober guy, so I calmed down.

We decided to walk from his photo studio to a nearby restaurant, but before we left he unholstered his gun and put it on the desk. Where we live, and in most places, it’s illegal to carry a concealed weapon (permit or not) into a restaurant. That’s beginning to change, however.

A few months back, South Carolina became one of a handful of states that allow people to carry concealed guns into bars and restaurants if they have a permit and don’t drink alcohol. The law also gives restaurant owners the right to post signs banning guns.

Starbucks chief Howard Schultz caused a stir recently when he publicly asked gun owners not to carry guns into company stores. The same happened for Chipotle Mexican Grill, which also asked customers not to bring guns into its restaurants unless they are law enforcement personnel. A gun-rights activist group protested the Chipotle announcement by arriving at one of its Dallas stores with assault rifles. In Texas one can openly carry a rifle, but not a handgun. I imagine customers at that Chipotle felt more than a bit uneasy seeing several men walking in with rifles.

Perhaps the biggest furor over a restaurant banning guns came in March when Backstreets Pub & Grill in Clemson, SC, posted a sign asking customers not to carry guns. Owner Pete Matsko admitted that he should have posted a state-designated sign rather than the one he posted: “If you are such a loser that you feel you need to carry a gun with you when you go out, I do not want your business.”

He later told the New York Times, “On some nights you have college kids wall to wall in here drinking. You don’t want a gun in here.”

Not everyone agrees with him. Yelpers exploded after his sign posting, most of them blasting the restaurant owner. The restaurant’s rating on Yelp also plummeted. This story brings to light how involved restaurant owners must now be with social issues. No longer can you hide your head in the sand. Restaurant owner David McMillan, who is also chairman of the South Carolina Restaurant Association, put it succinctly: “It’s more than just cooking food. We have to be allergen experts and nutritional experts and now Second Amendment experts.”

What you have here may well be a damned if you do damned if you don’t scenario. What’s your take on this issue? How would you handle a new law allowing customers to carry guns into your restaurant? Please email me with your thoughts.

Michael Sanson, Editor-in-Chief
E-mail: mike.sanson@penton.com
Twitter: @MikeSansonRH