Open-Carriers Pose a Threat to Restaurants with Liquor Licenses

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Regardless of their personal stance on any hot-button social issue, most business owners do not want their place of business to be the focus of demonstrations on that issue – wisely so, because rarely does being the focus of a political demonstration go hand-in-hand with making money.  

However, recently some gun enthusiasts in Dallas put Chipotle in the spotlight by openly carrying loaded semi-automatic rifles – commonly known as “assault rifles” – into a downtown Dallas area Chipotle’s restaurant. Chipotle released a statement asking customers not to bring firearms into their restaurants, reading in part:  

Recently participants from an “open carry” demonstration in Texas brought guns (including military-style assault rifles) into one of our restaurants, causing many of our customers anxiety and discomfort. Because of this, we are respectfully asking that customers not bring guns into our restaurants, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel. 

Historically, we felt it enough to simply comply with local laws regarding the open or concealed carrying of firearms, because we believe that it is not fair to put our team members in the uncomfortable position of asking that customers refrain from bringing guns into our restaurants. However, because the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers, we think it is time to make this request (emphasis added).  

As well-meaning as Chipotle’s request may be, it shows that, like many business owners, they are not aware of their obligations under Texas law. Many businesses follow Chipotle’s historical approach and, instead of asking their employees to intervene, attempt to leave it up to local law to determine if a gun-toter is acting legally or not.  

However, in Texas businesses with liquor licenses do not have that luxury. Under Texas State Law, any business with a liquor license – including all Chipotles and most family-style restaurants – which knowingly permits a person possessing a firearm to remain on their premises is subject to having their license revoked.[1] The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has further stated that rifles and shotguns are not permitted inside establishments with liquor licenses and warns that “[i]f an individual does choose to carry a rifle or shotgun into a TABC-licensed business, the individual is placing the business owner’s TABC license at risk.” 

So if you own a business with a liquor license, what should you do? You have an affirmative obligation to prohibit Open Carriers from entering or remaining on their premises, but the presence of weapons may well unnerve employees who do not want to be responsible for asking them to leave. The TABC is not helpful, reminding business owners that “a business owner may ask a patron to leave the premises. If the patron refuses, that individual may be subject to criminal trespassing charges under Texas Penal Code Section 30.05.”

Ultimately, businesses with liquor licenses will simply have to bite the bullet – pun definitely intended – and the owner or manager must ask, respectfully, and once, for the Open Carriers to leave. If the Open Carriers refuse to leave, at that point they are trespassing and it is a matter for the local constabulary.

Tilting the Scales in your Favor

  • If you’ve got a liquor license, you put it at risk by not removing persons with firearms from your premises;
  • Open Carriers are trying to make a political point – so politely ask them to make it elsewhere; and
  • If they refuse, the police will ask them, less politely, for you.

[1]               There are exceptions for, among others, concealed carry permits and peace officers. Tex. Alc. Bev. Code § 11.61(e).

Topics:  Chipotle Grill, Gun Laws, Gun Permits, Hospitality Industry, Licenses, Liquor, Wine & Alcohol

Published In: General Business Updates, Constitutional Law Updates, Criminal Law Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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