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Restaurants Tell Customers Guns Not Welcome

March on Washington for gun control. Wikipedia

DENVER – One of the most contentious issues for restaurant chains today is whether or not they should allow customers to bring guns into their establishments. While states and cities permit people to carry licensed guns in some fashion, certain businesses are telling guests to leave their guns at home.

Chipotle Mexican Grill and Jack-in-the-Box have recently announced that they will not allow gun-packing  customers into their restaurants. While Chipotle explained last week that it has never taken a position on the issue of consumers’ Second Amendment rights, Jack-in-the-Box acknowledged it did have a no-firearms-in-store policy which would now be enforced. Both expressed that the sight of guns in restaurants makes customers, many with children, feel uneasy.

What is driving this latest movement to ban firearms?

Denver-based Chipotle took its stand on the issue after gun-rights advocates brought military-style assault rifles into one of its restaurants in Dallas, Texas. Last Tuesday the company said it has traditionally complied with local laws regarding open and concealed firearms. But it added, “The display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers.” 

Jack-in-the-Box made its decision in response to a semi-automatic rifle demonstration inside a Texas-based Jack-in-the Box restaurant in early May. The company released this statement, “The presence of guns inside a restaurant could create an uncomfortable situation for our guests and employees and lead to unintended consequences.”

The restaurant chains insisted that making their decision to ban firearms was not a direct result of the Texas incidents. And they said it was not due to pressures from gun control groups. But both made their decision the day after Moms Demand Action launched a petition to pressure them to enforce their no-firearms-in-stores policy. That organization was formed after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Forbes magazine also reported last week that former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, who backs a gun control group, called on Chipotle to ban guns following a meeting of open carry activists in a Texas restaurant. The report said that Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was circulating a petition in response to the incident. 

Shannon Watts, founder of the group stated, “Moms want to know that when we take our families out to eat burritos, we won’t be confronted with bullets.”  Watts also pointed to another event inside a Utah Chipotle, when a gun owner dropped his handgun, causing it to discharge. He was not cited as he legally had the right to carry the gun. The Watts’ organization is now under the umbrella of Bloomberg’s $50 million Everytown movement.”

Last year Starbucks announced to its patrons that guns were no longer welcome in its cafes. It temporarily closed its store in Newtown, Connecticut out of respect to families and the community where 20 schoolchildren and six educators were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Starbucks did not issue a ban on firearms. Instead, it made the statement that it did not want to put its workers in the position of having to ask people carrying guns to leave its stores.

Recently, young men sat in a Sonic Drive-In with their rifles to make their political point. This photo below and others on social media site Twitter were the spark that ignited considerable controversy.

Will new gun bans bring violence?

After a restaurant in North Carolina posted a sign recently stating it was a “gun-free zone,” it was robbed at gunpoint last week. reported, “Three men wearing hooded sweatshirts and wielding handguns entered The Pit, a barbeque restaurant, through the kitchen Sunday night.” Two employees were assaulted during the robbery.

The article told that a pro-gun website published a photo of the “No Weapons. No Concealed Firearms” sign last week in wake of the robbery. It stated that retired Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in what was termed an assassination attempt in Arizona three years ago, visited The Pit restaurant last year for an anti-gun roundtable.

Government officials get involved

Decisions on gun control laws have been mixed in state and city government offices across the country. Last September the Chicago City Council approved a measure that would ban guns at restaurants that serve liquor in their jurisdiction. But the National Rifle Association argued the ordinance violates the state’s concealed carry law.

After aldermen reluctantly approved the decision, one sponsors spoke out. “Bullets and booze don’t mix.” Alderman Edward Burke explained, “For those of you who might be worried about the expense of defending this when the NRA sues, as they threatened to do, a Chicago law firm has agreed to represent the city to defend this matter on a pro bono basis.”

With the new concealed-carry gun law in effect, the city sent out emails last January to business owners telling them that the law requires a “No Gun” sign posted “clearly and conspicuously” at the entrance to their business if they do not want firearms on the premises. But many non-restaurant businesses objected, saying that would scare customers away.

Louisiana has also revealed its position on the contentious issue. Governor Bobby Jindal signed into law five bills that will affect the state’s Stand Your Ground law. reported that while all five passed by wide margins with bipartisan support, only one drew significant debate. That was House Bill 72 which allows concealed-carry permit holders and off-duty law enforcement to carry firearms in restaurants that serve alcohol. It had passed the Louisiana Senate earlier by a 37-2 vote.

When the bill passed the state House last April, sponsor Rep. Joe Lopinto (R-Metairie) said, “People go to restaurants and also don’t drink. And I don’t think you should be punished just because you’re walking into a restaurant that happens to serve alcohol. Something could happen there, or something can happen around the corner.” The only exception to the bill would be for establishments that are issued a Class A-Restaurant permit, meaning a restaurant/bar combination like a Chili’s or Applebees.

There was opposition to House Bill 72. “We here in Louisiana put nothing, I mean nothing, before guns,” said Rep. Barbara Norton (D-Shreveport). “One day we have to think about putting safety first.”

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About Janet Sparks

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Janet Sparks is the former publisher of the Continental Franchise Review, an industry newsletter that covered the franchise community for over 30 years. She has also been a columnist for a leading franchise magazine for the past 13 years. Today she is an independent journalist who engages in investigative reporting, tackling complex issues that impact the franchise industry.

Janet can be reached at or at 303-799-7398.