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Chapel Hill businesses display their firearm restrictions

Linda's is one of several Chapel Hill businesses that has a no concealed weapons decal posted outside of its window.
Linda's is one of several Chapel Hill businesses that has a no concealed weapons decal posted outside of its window.

Concealed-carry permit holders have been allowed to bring guns into N.C. restaurants serving alcohol for months now, stirring controversy among interest groups on both sides of the debate.

And now, bars are caught in the crossfire.

For many Chapel Hill bartenders, the Oct. 1 implementation of the law hasn’t had much of an effect on their business. At least three have posted signs forbidding guns on the premises and some Chapel Hill bars have banned weapons verbally.

Still, the signs have become political tools for interest groups in the gun debate.

Gail Neely, executive director of gun-control organization North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, started a campaign called “Ask Before You Eat,” which included compiling a list of N.C. restaurants that ban firearms, allowing patrons to thank those establishments.

But Neely said the list was taken off the group’s website when the tactic backfired — restaurant owners were being harassed by members of gun-rights organization Grass Roots North Carolina. At Grass Roots N.C., President Paul Valone started “Safe Restaurants” campaign and compiled a list of “high-risk” restaurants that ban guns.

According to the group’s website, restaurants are given a notice by Grass Roots N.C. to remove their sign, and if they do not, their information is posted on the website to allow concealed-carry holders and gun-rights activists to contact them further.

Among the restaurants listed are Chapel Hill establishments Linda’s Bar & Grill, The Blue Horn Lounge and Cholanad Restaurant & Bar. Blue Horn Lounge has a sign banning concealed weapons, but declined to comment. Representatives from Cholanad were unavailable for comment.

Linda’s owner Chris Carini said he has received a couple of letters in the past few months from Grass Roots N.C.

“I really don’t care,” Carini said. “It’s a sticker on a window.”

Other Chapel Hill bartenders said they haven’t been affected by the new law at all.

“I always thought (permit holders) were allowed to bring in concealed weapons,” said Mike Freas, owner of the bar Recovery Room. “I don’t know if anyone’s ever had a gun in here or not.”

Mandey Brown, owner of Zog’s Pool Hall, said she does not allow weapons in her bar. Brown said Zog’s hasn’t been contacted by Grass Roots N.C., but she wouldn’t mind it.

“Anyone who wants to bring a gun in my bar is welcome to boycott me if they don’t want to be here,” she said. “I would like to be boycotted by people who want to wave guns in my bar.”

Under the N.C. law, to get a concealed-carry permit, individuals must complete an eight-hour course and other requirements.

Valone said allowing concealed weapons in bars helps to reduce violent crime by providing a deterrent to criminals. But Neely said she is concerned that allowing concealed weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol could cause more instances of violence.

“If you have a gun available, if you get in an altercation, it’s just easy to grab it and shoot rather than work your way out of that situation.”

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