Blacksburg restaurant owners are lobbying against a bill that would allow permit holders to carry concealed weapons in establishments that serve alcohol.
Jason Brauns, who owns Top of the Stairs on College Avenue, is a concealed carry permit holder, but does not want concealed weapons in his establishment.
“In a nutshell, I have a concealed weapons permit,” Brauns said. “I believe in gun rights and being able to carry guns, but I don’t believe that in bars or anywhere alcohol is involved is the place for them.”
The Virginia House of Delegates has passed the bill and the senate is expected to vote on it Tuesday. The bill would change Virginia’s laws on concealed weapons. Currently, concealed weapons are not allowed in restaurants that serve alcohol. The bill would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry guns in restaurants, as long as the holders do not consume alcohol.
Robert Hodges, who owns Bud Foster’s Restaurant, said the legislation would put restaurant owners in an uncomfortable situation.
“I think this is the worst thing the legislation in Richmond could ever do to restaurants and bars,” Hodges said.
Brauns said the stipulation that requires the person concealing the weapon to not drink would be difficult to deal with.
“I guess that would make it a lot more challenging to enforce that,” Brauns said. “I think it needs to be a blanket law on that. You can either carry it in there or you can’t.”
If the bill were to be enacted into law, Brauns said he would put up a sign prohibiting guns in Top of the Stairs.
Hodges said adding the sign could create an image problem with patrons visiting from other areas.
“You can put up a sign on your door that says ‘No guns allowed,’ but I’ll be honest with you, how likely is someone from out of town to enter a restaurant or bar where they have a big sign posted that says ‘No guns allowed?’”
Hodges is afraid difficult enforcement conditions could lead to safety hazards.
“As an owner and operator of a restaurant that does serve alcohol, yeah I have some concerns and some safety issues with the legislation,” Hodges said. “The fact that someone can walk in here with a concealed weapon just because they have a permit, get intoxicated, and if there is an altercation pull a gun and discharge it in my establishment concerns me greatly.”
John Welch, a Virginia Tech senior and spokesman for Students for Non-Violence, said local state government officials are not accurately representing the citizens of the Blacksburg area.
Delegates Dave Nutter and Jim Shuler, who each represent a portion of Montgomery County, voted for the measure. Sen. John Edwards, who represents a portion of Montgomery County, has yet to vote. None of the officials immediately returned phone calls from the Collegiate Times.
“They’re sort of out of touch with a lot of people that they’re saying we’re out of touch with,” Welch said.
Welch said the bill will likely pass in the senate, but he has been leading the opposition effort.
“I think there’s a good chance,” Welch said. “It was so close when it was in committee, so now all the pressure is really going on Delegate Nutter and Sen. Edwards, and we’ve been pounding his e-mail inbox for the last 48 hours.”
universtity news editor philipp kotlaba contributed to this report