Smaller Eateries Serve Up Welcome for Guns

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Jessie Spaulding, a gun-toting waitress at the Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colo

While guns are off the welcome list at chains including Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., CMG +0.15% Starbucks Corp. SBUX +0.44% , and Sonic Corp. SONC -0.68% , a small but growing number of independent restaurateurs around the country are rolling out the red carpet.

Eateries like Shiloh Brew & Chew in Maryville, Tenn., are posting signs saying guns are welcome. All Around Pizza and Deli in Virginia Beach, Va., is offering discounts for patrons who show up armed, while The Cajun Experience in Leesburg, Va., hosts “Second Amendment Wednesdays.” At Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colo., the waitresses pack heat.

“I believe in the right to bear arms, and as a small business owner, who am I to take it away?” said Sharma Floyd, the owner of Shiloh Brew & Chew. In May, she posted a small, paper sign in the window of her restaurant noting that “guns are welcome on premises,” above a picture of a handgun. After a local television station ran a story on Ms. Floyd’s move in July, business spiked, she said, largely due to an influx of diners carrying concealed weapons.

Most states readily allow their residents to carry handguns outside the home, either in a concealed or open fashion. But private businesses have wide latitude to allow or restrict the presence of firearms, and some, motivated largely by a perceived anti-gun sentiment arising after the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn., have decided to open their doors to guns and their owners.

Last year, Starbucks asked its customers not to bring guns into its more than 12,000 cafes in the U.S. In May, Sonic, Chipotle, and Chili’s Grill & Bar made similar requests after participants at gun-rights demonstrations brought rifles and semi-automatic weapons into their outlets to advocate for the right to display weapons in public. The chains didn’t institute outright bans, only requested that patrons leave them behind.

Some gun-control activists call the pro-gun efforts irresponsible. “Restaurants routinely protect their patrons from second-hand smoke, so it makes sense they would go out of their way to protect them from bullets as well,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which has pressured larger companies to adopt more-restrictive policies on guns.

Gun-rights supporters call such concerns overblown. “Gun-owners are largely polite, tend to their own business, and are responsible with their firearms,” said Dave Workman, communications director for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

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