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Bars, Restaurants, Signmakers Prepare for Concealed Weapons Law

Gov. Haley Expected to Sign Bill Allowing Guns in Businesses That Serve Alcohol
By Eva Moore
Friday, January 24, 2014 |
The co-owner of a company that makes South Carolina-compliant “No Concealable Weapons Allowed” signs is getting ready for a flood of orders as Gov. Nikki Haley prepares to sign a bill allowing concealed weapons to be carried into places where alcohol is served.

The S.C. House passed the bill 90-18 on Thursday; it had already been passed 33-5 last session by the Senate. The new law will allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry their weapons into bars and restaurants, as long as they don’t consume any alcohol while doing so. Here in the Midlands, the bill drew strong bipartisan support, gaining the support of all local GOP representatives and all but three local House Democrats: Mia McLeod, Leon Howard and Chris Hart.

Lawmakers approved the bill over the protests of law enforcement, who said alcohol and guns don’t mix. But supporters cheer the bill, saying it means concealed weapons permit holders won’t have to leave their guns in their cars when they go out to dinner.

Bar and restaurant owners can opt out by posting a sign at each entrance to their building reading “No Concealable Weapons Allowed.” However, state law 23-31-235 dictates in great detail the size of those signs and exactly how and where they must be posted.

That’s where Brian Truex, owner of the South Carolina-based company CWP Compliance, comes in. He says many of the signs and window decals on the market don’t comply with South Carolina law.

“State law is so specific that none of them are correct — the strikethrough goes in the wrong direction,” or the size of the sign is wrong, or the lettering is the wrong size, Truex says.

On Friday, when Free Times called him, he’d just finished printing 1,500 new signs in expectation of some big orders coming in.

It’s hard to gauge how many business owners will be posting signs.

John Durst, president and CEO of the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, says a poll of the group’s members last year showed almost an even split: half in favor of allowing concealed carry in their establishments, and half opposed.

“So we never took an official position,” Durst says, “other than to say we did support the opt-out provision, which we’re pleased to say is in the final legislation.”

Actually, the only inquiry he’s had this week about the law was from a company that wants to start producing compliant signs. But as business owners become aware of the law, his group will be doing some education.

“We’ll provide some additional training to servers to be more aware with regard to … whether somebody has a concealed weapon,” Durst says.

Even though Haley hasn’t yet signed the bill, local restaurants and bars are already letting their clientele know where they stand.

Alex Waelde, who owns Sharky’s in Five Points, told WLTX, “Guns have no place in a bar.” Bar None owner Marty Dreesen told WIS he’ll be posting a sign banning concealable weapons from his Five Points bar. The Main Street bar The Whig, too, posted a status update on Facebook saying it won’t be allowing weapons. [Full disclosure: This reporter’s husband is employed by The Whig.] Other restaurants and bars are following suit.

Will there be consequences to these policies? Maybe. In other states with similar laws, business owners have taken heat for banning weapons. In Virginia, where concealable weapons are allowed in bars if owners don’t opt out, country singer Toby Keith opened I Love This Bar & Grill in late 2013; some fans were outraged by the bar’s “no weapons” policy.

And in Arizona, a website called GunBurger tracks which businesses do and don’t allow concealable weapons, and urges gun owners to “vote with your dollars” by supporting only gun-friendly establishments. The site is actively recruiting new chapters in other states.

The bill is now headed for Haley's desk. The governor — who got a new gun for Christmas — is expected to sign it.

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