Sonic And Chili's Respond To Demonstrations By Banning Guns In Dining Areas

| by Jared Keever

Sonic Drive-In and Chili’s Grill & Bar waded into the nation’s gun debate this weekend, announcing that the restaurants will no longer welcome guns in their dining rooms.

USA Today reports that the two restaurant chains released announcements Friday in response to a recent demonstration in Texas where open-carry activists brought rifles and shotguns into the dining area of a Sonic restaurant.

A similar demonstration occurred at a San Antonio Chili’s when activists carried assault rifles into a dining room. They were asked to leave after other diners complained that they felt uncomfortable having the guns in the room, according to the Huffington Post.

"We recognize that the open carry of firearms in restaurants creates an uncomfortable atmosphere and is not permitted under many local liquor laws," read a statement from Brinker International, the Dallas-based company that owns Chili’s. "So, we kindly ask that guests refrain from openly carrying firearms into our restaurants and we will continue to follow state and local laws on this issue.”

Sonic’s statement said that although the company has typically relied on local gun laws, recent actions have forced them to reconsider that approach.

"We've considered the views and desires of our customers and employees that staff the drive-ins across the country," the statement from Sonic’s headquarters in Oklahoma City read. "Accordingly, we're asking that customers refrain from bringing guns onto our patios or into our indoor dining areas. With respect to the storage of guns in vehicles, we ask that our customers continue to honor local laws.”

The announcements were good news for Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The group advocates for tougher gun restrictions in the country and it had recently launched a campaign calling on businesses to crack down on guns or face boycotts. 

"We know moms make the majority of spending decisions for our families," she said. "When we collectively wield our economic power we can make a real difference.”

Watts said the decisions made by Chili’s and Sonic just made good business sense.

"No one wants to see photos of assault rifles in their restaurants," she said. "It's not good for the brand.”

The group that organized some of the recent gun demonstrations in the state recognized that its tactics may not have worked from a public relations perspective. A statement from Open Carry Texas acknowledged that the demonstrations, which were intended to encourage a broader acceptance of guns in public, had "gotten the most resistance and suffered the largest setbacks.”

The group’s president, CJ Grisham, said Friday that the recent decisions from the two restaurant chains will only leave people defenseless.

"Our comment is that business owners have a right to make their employees and customers defenseless to the criminal element," he said. "We have always honored private property rights. Gun free zones have only proven that criminals don't read signs.”

Sources: USA Today, Huffington Post