Opinions differ among downtown owners on new gun law

Taverns are considering gun policies

Sunday, June 15, 2014 1:01 AM
Last updated Monday, June 16, 2014 11:47 AM
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Adrian Estrada’s downtown bar is fully stocked every night.

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Still Water Tap Room owner Matt Flynn said he is considering a ban on the carrying of concealed weapons at his bar on Broad Street in Augusta.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Still Water Tap Room owner Matt Flynn said he is considering a ban on the carrying of concealed weapons at his bar on Broad Street in Augusta.

Behind the bar at The Loft of Augusta, the Texas native keeps the shelves lined with liquor and the refrigerator full of beer. He also keeps his personal weapons at the establishment at 927 Broad St. Only he and his employees – most of whom are licensed and trained to handle a gun – know their location.

Estrada said he has no problem supporting local businesses that don’t permit firearms, but he does believe in his Second Amendment rights to bear arms.

He also wants the opportunity to protect himself, his staffers and customers if push comes to shove, he said. In July 2012, when six people were injured during a downtown shooting on First Friday just across the street from The Loft, Estrada said, 60 people ran into his bar because they knew he had guns there.

So, on April 23, when Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law a bill that will allow concealed-carry permit holders to take guns into bars, Estrada was conflicted.

“I’ve got mixed feelings because I carry,” he said. “I can’t say I’m the happiest about it, but I can’t be a hypocrite.”

House Bill 60, called the Safe Carry Protection Act, but nicknamed the “guns everywhere bill” by critics, gives licensed carriers in Georgia more freedom as to where they can take their guns.

Starting July 1, bars will be among the places that concealed-carry permit holders can take their guns without restriction, unless the property owner bans firearms from the premises. Before, guns were legally permitted in bars only if an owner gave the green light.

When the law is activated in two weeks, permit holders also will be allowed to take firearms inside some churches, schools and government buildings, depending on the circumstance.

Estrada said he won’t jump the gun by posting any signs that prohibit weapons inside The Loft, though he toyed with the idea in the beginning. He fears that placing a notice in his bar could draw more attention to the issue and be counterproductive. There’s nothing stopping people from leaving his bar and returning with a gun they’ve retrieved from their car, he said.

Instead, for safety, Estrada will continue bringing in a sheriff’s deputy on weekends and other security personnel during the rest of the week. Only if there’s an incident will Estrada change his policy, he said.

“I’m not going to try to stir it up,” the bar owner said. “I’m not going to put signs up. I’m not going to go crazy. I’ve got deputies at the door. They know the law, and I’m going to let them do their job and we’re going to continue to do ours. Business as usual.”

Whether other downtown bar and restaurant owners will follow in Estrada’s footsteps on the concealed weapons issue is not clear.

“I think the current law makes more sense, but ultimately if someone wants to bring a gun in they’re going to regardless of the law,” said Matt Flynn, the owner of Still Water Tap Room at 974 Broad St. “We currently allow them, but honestly, I’ve only had one person ever ask for permission.”

Flynn said he’s not had an issue involving guns since opening his bar – a casual spot that features live music – in 2003. He is, however, leaning toward implementing a new protocol that forbids guns from Still Water.

“We will probably post a “No Weapons” sign just to keep things from becoming the Old West,” Flynn said. “I wouldn’t think it would affect revenue, but I don’t know.”

The owners of Whiskey Bar Kitchen and Metro Pub and Coffeehouse are similarly wary of a scenario inside the neighboring Broad Street businesses that includes firearms. Co-owner Kenny Morrison said that although he doesn’t have an opinion on the gun-control issue, he wants to promote a “family environment” and will put up a sign barring concealed weapons in both locations.

“Just because there are so many people that come through both places, I would just rather not have that one added element where something could go wrong,” Morrison said. He added that the potential danger from mixing alcohol and guns was a key reason behind the decision. 

Two blocks down, at Joe’s Underground Cafe on Eighth Street, owner Jeremy LaFontaine doesn’t have a policy regarding guns.

“The people who are going to abide by it aren’t going to be the people who are going to be the problem,” he said. “The people you’re going to have to worry about are not going to go register their weapon or buy a gun-carry permit.”

Legislation was passed in 2008 allowing guns inside Georgia restaurants serving alcohol.

“There’s no difference if you’re going to a restaurant and you have several drinks,” LaFontaine said. “If you shoot for more of a responsible crowd and have people that just want to come and have a good time and enjoy a drink or food or whatever, it is then I feel like you’re not going to have as much of a problem.”

The Georgia Restaurant Association has taken a stance in support of private property owners deciding whether to allow guns.

“If they do not want guns in their establishment, property owners can simply post a sign in their window,” said the association’s executive director, Karen Bremer, in a statement.

Around the country, a growing number of restaurant chains have jumped aboard the anti-gun movement by asking customers to refrain from carrying firearms while dining.

Sonic and Chili’s are among the latest to join the list, which already includes Starbucks, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Wendy’s.

Is the gun law bad for business, though?

In May, a local steakhouse found out immediately what many of its customers thought of a sign posted that banned guns from the property. T-Bonz’s Facebook page was inundated with angry diners threatening to withhold their business and arguing that the message infringed on their Second Amendment rights.

The notice was removed within 24 hours, said Suzanne Sinisgalli, the assistant general manager, who denied that the backlash from patrons caused management to take it down.

“That wasn’t what we expected,” she said of the negative reaction. “We definitely got the response from it, but that really wasn’t why we took it down. ... We put it up for irresponsible gun owners. Then we thought about it, and we thought, irresponsible gun owners don’t pay attention to signs anyway, so then we just took it down.”

The response after that decision came in the form of praise, with customers thanking T-Bonz for the change of heart and promising to return for a meal.

“We got positive feedback from it for sure,” said Sinisgalli. “But, it was really more our doing.”

David Mustard, an associate economics professor at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, said he thinks the effect of enforcing a gun-free policy on business will be minor.

“Whatever decision a store owner makes, politically oriented groups on one side could boycott, while politically oriented groups on the other side could encourage their members to patronize the store,” he said. “Similarly, if (a) store owner permits carry, some people may be more likely to attend because they feel safer and others may be less likely to attend because they feel threatened.

‘‘I think few people are on this margin, and there are people who could go offset each other.”

Morrison said he doesn’t think it’s likely that business at Whiskey Bar Kitchen and Metro Pub and Coffeehouse will take a hit.

“If you want to come in to have a hamburger here and a shot of whiskey, then I think that they won’t have a problem with not bringing their weapons in,” he said. “Just like when we did the nonsmoking thing over at Metro, we did get some backlash from people that were used to the place being a smoking establishment, but once that initial wave subsided, everybody’s fine again. I think it’s kind of along the same lines.”

THE LAW

Starting July 1, bars will be among the places that concealed-carry permit holders can take their guns without restriction, unless the property owner bans firearms from the premises. Before, guns were permitted in bars only if an owner specifically gave the green light. When the law is activated in two weeks, permit holders also will be allowed to take firearms inside some churches, schools and government buildings, depending on the circumstance.

Comments (25) Add comment
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Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 06/15/14 - 11:36 am
3
0
The Hipsters
Unpublished

have spoken

oldredneckman96
5115
Points
oldredneckman96 06/15/14 - 01:10 pm
1
0
The Law
Unpublished

The business owners need to understand the Constitution. You can not ban gays, Jews, Blacks or anyone including citizens with a gun. If you are dumb enough to put out a sign attempting to ban guns you are inviting two things, criminals who will rob you and lawsuits from what could have been good customers.

Frank I
1203
Points
Frank I 06/15/14 - 02:01 pm
2
0
education

Someone should educate the author and owners on some specifics.. the only reference the law makes in regards to consumption of alcohol is specifically related to hunting...

Darby
29168
Points
Darby 06/15/14 - 02:12 pm
6
0
“We will probably post a “No Weapons” sign

just to keep things from becoming the Old West,” Flynn said. “I wouldn’t think it would affect revenue, but I don’t know."

Now that's just plain dumb. The "bad guys" who have alway carried their weapons into his establishment will continue to do so, no matter what kind of sign the man puts up.

Those who are conscientious and law abiding will leave their weapons in their vehicles or go to another bar. (I'd go to a bar where I felt less likely to see a drunken outlaw brandish a weapon and threaten my safety.)

Either way, Mr. Flynn and his business will be in MORE danger than they ever were before.

Much MORE IN DANGER!

Darby
29168
Points
Darby 06/15/14 - 02:17 pm
2
0
“If you shoot

for more of a responsible crowd and have people that just want to come and have a good time and enjoy a drink or food or whatever, it is then I feel like you’re not going to have as much of a problem.”

.
If you "shoot"? Was that a joke??

Or just clumsy wording?

Frank I
1203
Points
Frank I 06/15/14 - 02:20 pm
2
0
further education

signs don't carry weight of law in Georgia.

Archangel
8
Points
Archangel 06/15/14 - 03:13 pm
6
1
Typical reporter who doesn't know the law

1) Signs hold no legal weight in the state of Georgia. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Post all the signs you want, they legally mean nothing. If somebody sees a person carrying a firearm and doesn't want them on the property, the owner or a representative of the owner may ask then to leave. If they do not leave, they are guilty of trespassing. Having the gun in a place with a sign is NOT a violation of the law.

2) It is NOT against the law in Georgia to consume alcohol while carrying. I am not advocating it, nor suggesting it is a good or a bad idea. We are all capable of making our own decisions. While I don't choose to do it I have no issue with an a person enjoying a beer or a cocktail or two with their dinner while being armed. Drinking to excess is a different story and is covered by other laws pertaining to drunkenness.

deestafford
31689
Points
deestafford 06/15/14 - 03:54 pm
4
1
Just put a sign up saying, "No weapons allowed" as the....

Just put a sign up saying, "No weapons allowed" as the Jack in the Box did in NC and see how that keeps the thugs out. They did that and the thugs came in and robbed the store and pistol whipped the employees...twice. Thugs can read and don't pay attention to law.

As far as this idea that the Old West was nothing but people shooting off their guns all the time goes, it's Hollywood stuff. If one checks the records they would find there was not that much shooting. As a matter of fact, there is only one recorded instance of a quick draw shootout in the street on record. There was no such thing as a fair fight as we see in the movies.

How many shootings have we had with CWP holders as the criminal?

Gage Creed
19359
Points
Gage Creed 06/15/14 - 04:39 pm
3
1
More nothing

I'm certain they don't really care... but just a few more places to add to list that will not receive my business.

dade30906
258
Points
dade30906 06/15/14 - 04:44 pm
0
3
Keep in mind that by "slow,"

Keep in mind that by "slow," I mean that only 12 people accidentally shot themselves, only four law enforcement officer ( including a firearms instructor) were accidentally shot, only three people accidentally discharged their guns while cleaning them, and only one person accidentally Second Amendmented their neighbor's home.

And just eights were accidentally shot last week,too, though the toll included seasonal tragedies like graduation party shootings, the number of which might be expected to climb up in the next couple of weeks.

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 06/15/14 - 05:55 pm
2
0
Georgia Weapons Carry Licence... GWCL

This new law ONLY applies to people who have a valid GWCL.

So I guess people that are hyping this up are worried about the one group least likely to cause a problem with their firearm?

Makes no sense to me,

Brad

burninater
9921
Points
burninater 06/15/14 - 06:20 pm
0
4
"Now that's just plain dumb.

"Now that's just plain dumb. The "bad guys" who have alway carried their weapons into his establishment will continue to do so, no matter what kind of sign the man puts up."
-------
And they've never had a shooting?

Stupid hipsters. Can't even have a good ol' shooting, accidental or otherwise. This country's going down the tubes.

Gage Creed
19359
Points
Gage Creed 06/15/14 - 08:01 pm
1
1
SMH

Hey dade30906... when you quoted Daily Kos you forgot to give them credit
(eyeroll)

Did eights live in the CBD?

corgimom
38213
Points
corgimom 06/15/14 - 07:00 pm
0
6
Back in my single days, I

Back in my single days, I went to the nightclubs in Augusta, and there were people there that did NOT need to have a gun.

They were out of control enough as it was without a gun.

And people with carry licenses aren't necessarily the responsible ones "that won't cause trouble". People are people, and you get some liquor in them, and it changes them.

Sober, they are one person, and drunk, they are another.

Little Lamb
48829
Points
Little Lamb 06/15/14 - 08:20 pm
2
0
Law?

The Augusta Chronicle reporter Jenna Martin reported:

Although Georgia law prohibits armed patrons from consuming alcohol, many in the food and beverage industry consider it hard to enforce.

Then, Augusta Chronicle commenter Archangel commented:

It is NOT against the law in Georgia to consume alcohol while carrying.

Okay, folks, which is it? Is The Augusta Chronicle correct or is Archangel? Can anybody post a link to the law here?

Little Lamb
48829
Points
Little Lamb 06/15/14 - 08:28 pm
3
0
Enforce

Cub reporter Jenna Martin reported:

Although Georgia law prohibits armed patrons from consuming alcohol, many in the food and beverage industry consider it hard to enforce.

May I remind us of the obvious? It is not the duty for people in the food and beverage industry to enforce the laws of Georgia or the United States. People in the food and beverage industry are not authorized to enforce the law. It would be wise for them not to try.

Riverman1
93232
Points
Riverman1 06/15/14 - 08:36 pm
1
0
As LL asked, I, too, thought

As LL asked, I, too, thought so.

Frank I
1203
Points
Frank I 06/15/14 - 08:51 pm
0
0
Archangel

Archangel is correct. It is only illegal under GA law to consume in the course of hunting or fishing activities. It is however unlawful to discharge a firearm under the influence. Heres a good point of reference for those unaware of the laws.. http://www.georgiapacking.org/law.php

Little Lamb
48829
Points
Little Lamb 06/15/14 - 09:06 pm
1
0
Post

Thank you for that link, Frank I.

We’ll never see a retraction in The Chronicle print edition unless Sean Moores visits this thread.

gargoyle
20528
Points
gargoyle 06/15/14 - 11:11 pm
3
0
Corgmom... A lot of people

Corgmom... A lot of people carried back when you were single. A lot of pocket guns and snub 38's were in fashion the difference between then and now seems to be that the issue is a political talking point. Back in the 60's guns were everywhere and the old men would cut you at the first sign of disrespect. The world will not be safer making law abiding folks stop carrying.

Riverman1
93232
Points
Riverman1 06/16/14 - 05:21 am
2
0
How About Open Carry?

I wonder if the bars have a policy about open carry guns? I've seen people wearing guns openly in restaurants that serve alcohol.

Sean Moores
1039
Points
Sean Moores 06/16/14 - 09:25 am
0
0
Jenna will check on this

Jenna will check on this.

Sean Moores
1039
Points
Sean Moores 06/16/14 - 10:31 am
0
0
You're right

Jenna checked and you're right. I will get the story fixed online and she will get a correction in the print edition. Thanks for letting us know.

Sean Moores
1039
Points
Sean Moores 06/16/14 - 10:49 am
0
0
Removed the sentence in question

Rather than rewrite this story, I just removed the sentence.

DLE
13
Points
DLE 06/17/14 - 08:01 pm
0
0
Guns in Bars

There was more than one sentence wrong, Sean.

It's not illegal to consume alcohol while carrying a firearm. The only law that addresses it is OCGA 16-11-134. That says that it's illegal to discharge firearms while intoxicated, UNLESS in defense of self and others.

The other error is in the statement from the Restaurant Association. It infers that a bar owner can keep an armed patron from entering by posting a sign. As has already been said, signs do not carry the weight of law in Georgia. A person who carries a firearm must be asked to leave. He or she must leave immediately. There's no crime for walking past that sign, but if the owner or his representative can figure out that you're concealing you must leave immediately. The charge for sticking around to debate your rights will be that of "criminal trespass." There is no trespass when a person ignores the sign. Neighboring states all differ.

Sean Moores
1039
Points
Sean Moores 06/18/14 - 08:40 am
0
0
@ DLE

I spoke to the editors about this. We don't post corrections to quotes like this even if they misunderstood the law. We aren't stating it as fact; we're just stating that they said it. If we had said that, I would correct it here and in print.
If we corrected quotes for every misspeak, error, lie or exaggeration, we'd have a hard time quoting any politician, ever.
I appreciate everyone pointing it out. That's part of the reason we have online commenting.

DLE
13
Points
DLE 06/19/14 - 07:14 am
1
0
Thank you, Sir. I appreciate

Thank you, Sir. I appreciate your consideration. I understand your position.

I'd simply appreciate it if you all would make a better effort to substantiate the claims of an organization like the Restaurant Association. Even a comment from the Sheriff would be appreciated. I think he would've told you the same thing. I attended most of the hearings on gun bills over the last several. I have testified a few times at the Capitol. I know the laws.

The Augusta Chronicle reaches a large audience. Because of the erroneous information, most readers are under the false impression that signs can keep them out of an establishment that posts one. Thanks much for your consideration. .................. Don

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