December 19, 2014
Though the Illinois Legislature is expected to override Gov. Pat Quinn’s amendatory veto of the state’s concealed-carry weapons law, a separate bill may be introduced solely to ban concealed weapons from establishments that serve liquor.
State Rep. Ann Williams (D-11th), who represents the West Lakeview-Roscoe Village area, said Friday she is focused on the override effort, but she would consider supporting separate legislation to ban concealed weapons from public areas where alcohol is served.
Earlier in the spring session, the Illinois House passed such an amendment, but it failed to make the final bill, Williams said.
The Illinois Restaurant Association said Friday its members “are hopeful” that the Legislature will uphold Quinn’s changes, but added, “We have been working with our allies and business partners and evaluating our options.”
The association stopped short of saying it will back a separate bill.
Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago restaurant owners stood in front of Wrigley Field and the Cubby Bear sports bar on Friday to plead with legislators to uphold Quinn’s veto, saying they are worried that people carrying concealed weapons into bars, restaurants and tourist sites will frighten others away and cost Chicago’s important hospitality and tourism industry much-needed jobs and revenues.
They also argued that the measure would place 303,000 employees statewide who work in the bar, restaurant, tourism and hospitality industry at greater risk and would force employees to figure out when someone is intoxicated enough to harm others with a weapon.
Restaurant owners and employees have some experience with the issue now with undercover police officers, and they say it’s unnerving.
“It is an unsettling feeling to stand next to someone doing a couple of shots of tequila or whiskey and having four beers who has a weapon,” said Sam Sanchez, owner of Moe’s Cantina and John Barleycorn restaurants and a soon-to-open Old Crow Smokehouse. Sanchez said the Friday night crowd can average 900 people at each of his establishments.
If anyone is allowed to carry a weapon, he said, “People feel uncomfortable. People will leave.”
Echoing that sentiment, Quinn said, “Guns and alcohol are a toxic mix.”
On Tuesday, Quinn issued an amendatory veto of the state’s concealed-carry bill to make nine changes, including the liquor-establishment ban.
“The common-sense changes I outlined this week make this a better law and I encourage people to visit KeepIllinoisSafe.org, contact their state legislators and urge them to support these important changes.”
Glenn Keefer, managing partner of Keefer’s Restaurant at 20 W. Kinzie in the River North neighborhood, said a provision in the current law for restaurants to post signs that guns are unwelcome won’t work.
The existing bill’s language, which Quinn said comes straight from the National Rifle Association-endorsed concealed carry law in Texas, allows concealed-carry weapons in bars and restaurants whose alcohol sales are less than 50 percent of their gross receipts. The existing bill lets those restaurants put up signs saying guns are unwelcome, while establishments with greater than 50-percent alcohol sales are required to post such signs.
“After more than 40 years in the bar and restaurant business, I can tell you that signs do not work,” Keefer said, noting that he took down his own restaurant’s sign asking men to take off their hats while dining because it was ignored.
“Signs are annoying to guests and too often invisible to guests,” said Keefer, a board member of the Illinois Restaurant Association.
Keefer and Sanchez also disagreed with the bill’s provisions distinguishing restaurants by the 50-percent alcohol sales requirement.
“Using percentages of gross receipts is arbitrary, fails to address individual behavior and puts at risk the lives of innocent guests and workers,” Keefer said.
The General Assembly is scheduled to return to Springfield on July 9 to act on Quinn’s amendatory veto. The House voted 89-28 for the plan, while the Senate voted 45-12 for it. A subsequent vote in both chambers that results in at least 71 House votes and 36 Senate votes will block Quinn’s effort to undercut the legislation.