Now that the Tennessee legislature has begun the great transformation of our state into a perpetually armed camp, it's time to ponder some of the more interesting ramifications of their zealotry. Restaurants in this state are now, of course, faced with a choice: whether or not to allow legally armed customers onto their premises. Writer Chris Davis interviewed a number of bar/restaurant owners for the Flyer's recent cover story and discovered that there is no overwhelming consensus as to what most owners are going to do.
The choice is not a simple one. Restaurant/bar owners must consider several factors in making their decision, including insurance liability, what their customers might prefer, personal politics, the safety of their employees, etc. But the bottom line for most will be, well, the bottom line. When new, more restrictive smoking regulations were passed, restaurants had to figure out which option brought in more money — catering strictly to an over-21, smoking crowd or staying family friendly. Now proprietors must figure out what most of their customers will prefer — an armed or unarmed establishment — and act accordingly.
Similar choices will face consumers. Let's say you're a gun-totin' smoker. You have to find a joint that allows both, or you'll have to leave either your cigarettes or your gun in the car, where they're sure to be stolen (at least, according to carry permit holders). People on both sides of the issue are saying they won't patronize establishments that favor the other side. As for the often-cited Applebee's, I don't eat there anyway, but I wouldn't worry much one way or the other during dinner hour at legitimate restaurants. Bars are the real issue for me. For the record, any late-night bar that allows guns won't get my business.
Here's an idea: Why not let bar and restaurants establish "Guns Allowed" and "No Guns Allowed" areas, just like they used to do with smoking? That way we'd at least know where the nuts are sitting.