No one knows how the national debate over assault weapons, second amendment rights, gun buyer background checks and the rest will eventually play out. But in the meantime, restaurant operators on either end of the gun rights spectrum have been swept up into the issue.
On the pro-gun side, All Around Pizza and Deli of Virginia Beach is showing its support of gun owners by giving them a discount. Customers who bring their weapon into the restaurant get a 15 percent reduction on their tab. Concealed weapon carriers can merely display their concealed carry permit to get the discount.
Restaurant owner Jay Laze told website Eater.com that his commitment to gun ownership extends to his staff. “I actually hire delivery drivers that do carry openly,” he says. No wonder. Among other options, All Around drivers will deliver as many as four cases of beers so long as the customer orders at least one entrée-type food item.
The promotion runs until March 31 and seems likely to bring in additional business, particularly given the presence of several military bases in All Around Pizza’s immediate market area.
The battle over second amendment rights that arose after the tragic shootings in Newtown, CT, and other recent massacre-type incidents has demonstrated how many gun rights advocates live in this country and how unshakeable are their beliefs in the sanctity of the second amendment. It seems likely they would give some of their business to establishments like All Around Pizza, which publicly identifies with their cause. If nothing else, Laze has already gotten plenty of publicity for this offer, which isn’t a huge price concession in the era of 50-percent-off daily deals.
It seems like a smart business move, but maybe not to John Keener, proprietor of the Charleston Crab House, in Charleston, SC. He’s speaking out after a South Carolina State Senate committee approved a proposed bill that would allow people to carry guns into restaurants.
"I wouldn't let someone in with a baseball bat, with a club in their hand,” Keener told Charleston television station WCIV. “I don't let people like that in the restaurant. Why would I let anybody in with a gun?”
The bill, which must be passed by the full South Carolina Senate before it comes law, would specifically permit gun owners to enter a restaurant that sells alcohol, providing they do not themselves consume any alcohol while there. Restaurant owners would have the power to accept or reject who can enter their operation, the idea being to keep out customers who have been drinking elsewhere.
Keener doesn’t like the idea of having to scrutinize every customer who enters his restaurant.
“All of a sudden, we become the police, the judge and jury all in one,” he says. “We have to decide on who can we serve alcohol to just because he has a gun or it could be a concealed gun and we don’t know he has a gun.”
The biggest problem, of course, would be if the gun-toting customer consumes too much alcohol and becomes belligerent. Who wants to be the restaurant owner or manager when that circumstance would arise? Another worry: if a restaurant becomes a no-guns-allowed establishment, the gun-owning community could boycott it.
Keener hopes the law gets rewritten. Perhaps it will fail to make it through the full Senate.
But no matter what happens, it looks like the gun debate may have an impact on restaurant owners whether they want one or not. On Feb. 22, gun owners in Virginia celebrated “Gun Owners Support Starbucks Day.” Starbucks isn’t pro-gun per se, but did stand up to anti-gun activists who wanted it to ban guns from its stores. No dice, sad Starbucks c.e.o. Howard Schulz, now an unwitting hero for the pro-gun crowd.
The upshot for restaurant operators here: Although you may not have thought your operation needs a gun policy, it may be time to start thinking whether you should have one, and what it should be.