New gun law makes bar owners first line of defense
PRESCOTT - Bullets and booze don't mix.
That is the prevailing sentiment of some business owners in Prescott about the new concealed weapons law that goes into effect Sept. 30.
Senate Bill 1113 allows persons with a valid concealed carry weapons (CCW) permit to carry concealed weapons into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.
"Stupid," bartender Karla Tomky, of Moctezuma's Bar, said.
"Really bad idea," Hooligan's Pub bartender Mishael Cummings said.
"Just asking for trouble," Bird Cage Saloon owner Debi Stamm said.
Before Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1113, it was illegal to take firearms, whether concealed or not, into bars and restaurants. It still is illegal to carry firearms openly into businesses that serve alcohol, but now it is a business owner's choice whether to allow customers to wear concealed weapons.
However, it is illegal for a person with a concealed weapon to buy and drink alcohol, and it is illegal for a business to serve alcohol to a customer who is armed with a concealed weapon.
"If it's concealed, how are you supposed to know if you are serving someone with a gun?" Tomky asked rhetorically. "I can't just pat-down everyone at the door to see if they are armed."
Few bars and restaurants post "No Weapons" signs because weapons are illegal with or without a sign. That changes Sept. 30.
"The major thrust of this law is this: If the owner of an establishment that sells liquor does not post a sign prohibiting concealed weapons, a person with a CCW permit can legally walk in with a concealed weapon," Mike Braun, Executive Director of Arizona Legislative Council said. "It is up to the owner."
The Arizona Department of Liquor License and Control provides signs free of charge to business owners with valid liquor licenses.
"The 'No Firearms Allowed' sign must be posted in a conspicuous location accessible to the general public and immediately adjacent to the liquor license on the licensed premises," Lee Hill, Liquor Department Communications Director, explained.
However, the signs must comply with the statute's specifications. For example, signs must be laminated white cardboard at least six inches by nine inches in size, have a pictogram of a pistol inside a red circle with a slash through the circle, and read "No Firearms Allowed Pursuant to A.R.S. 4-229" printed in black ink.
"We do not have the signs made yet, but business owners can download a temporary sign from our website," Hill said. To download the sign, go to www.azliquor.gov.
Dave Michelson, owner of The Palace Restaurant and Saloon, has not decided if he is going to post a "No Weapons" sign.
"I get a lot of Western reenactment groups in here, so I'm not sure yet," he said. "But I like the idea that it's my choice and not the government telling me I have to."
The good news is that the statute does not make business owners or employees liable if a customer whips out a pistol and starts blasting away, " ... unless the on-sale retailer is grossly negligent or acts willfully and maliciously with intent to harm."
Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh does not expect to see an increase in bar shootings.
"I don't see a problem if (gun owners) comply with the law," he said. "We've responded to shootings with drunks involved, but not inside the bars as far as I can recall."
Aaron Meisheid, general manager of The Office Restaurant and Bar, said he does not "see any need for people to carry guns in a bar."
"If you are going to get in a fight, it's better to go home with a black eye than a bullet hole," he said.
Stamm, of the Bird Cage Saloon, said the new concealed weapons law is "a catalyst" for trouble.
"It's like pouring gasoline on a fire," she said. "There is no place for guns in a bar."
Update: All of the state Legislative District 1 and 2 lawmakers voted in favor of SB113, the gun law relating to bars and restaurants.