Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tennessee's "Guns in Restaurants" Bill

A lot of people are kicking around a lot of inaccuracies regarding the new law. Here it is in its entirety:

(A) Authorized to carry a firearm under § 39-17-1351 who is not consuming beer, wine or any alcoholic beverage, and is within the confines of a restaurant that is open to the public and serves alcoholic beverages, wine or beer.

(B) As used in this subdivision (c)(3), “restaurant” means any public place kept, used, maintained, advertised and held out to the public as a place where meals are served and where meals are actually and regularly served, such place being provided with adequate and sanitary kitchen and dining room equipment, having employed therein a sufficient number and kind of employees to prepare, cook and serve suitable food for its guests. At least one (1) meal per day shall be served at least five (5) days a week, with the exception of holidays, vacations and periods of redecorating, and the serving of such meals shall be the principal business conducted.
That's all it says. No drinking allowed, no age restrictions, no 51% rule.

The definition of restaurant is lacking, to say the least. I mean, it defines the word, but leaves a lot of wiggle room legally.

Here's the reality check for everyone concerned. Remember, while this makes sense to me, I'm not a lawyer, so caveat emptor:
  1. Unless you draw or otherwise display your firearm, no one will know you are armed.
  2. If you do draw your firearm in self-defense, you will enjoy "affirmative defense" in court, meaning they won't charge you with the misdemeanor of carrying in a restricted area.
  3. Seeing as this is a misdemeanor, unless the police actually see you in violation, you can't be charged.
While I don't advocate breaking the law, there may be times where you find yourself carrying where you aren't supposed to. If you find yourself in that situation, get yourself out of it at your earliest convenience.

It's happened to me in the past. A couple of months ago we were going to lunch after church. Everything went fine, but as we were leaving, I noticed a sign - "Now serving beer". Oops.

One of the downsides of getting comfortable with carrying a firearm, I guess.



Anonymous said...

and the serving of such meals shall be the principal business conducted.

I'm guessing that's where people are getting the 51% thing. It doesn't say "51% of proceeds to come from food" specifically, but that could be interpreted in many ways.

And that's very probably the basis for the "too vague" argument from the people suing to have the law overturned.

Short getting statements from the establishment, how is someone to know whether a place's "principle business" is selling food or booze?

Especially at lunch time. There are several places around here that serve a pretty good lunch. I and my co-workers frequent them often during lunch breaks. During that time of the day, the establishement's principle business is selling food.

However, at night, they morph into what most would consider a "bar" (Like Tennessee, there's no such thing as a "bar"...there are only restaurants that serve alcohol) and during the evening/night-time, it's pretty obvious that their principle business is catering to the local drunks. it OK at lunch time and not OK at dinnertime? Is it never OK based on how much income comes from food and how much from booze?

If I were a Tennesseean, I'd be a little concerned about how vague that sentence is.

Bob S. said...

I think the 51% comes from other states with mixed up laws...such as Texas.

We are allowed to carry in places that sell alcohol UNTIL 51% of their income is derived from alcohol sold to be consumed on site. Ridiculous but avoids much of the problems with what is a restaurant or not.

Anonymous said...

Hey rust, the definition isn't really lacking all that much. It's the same definition of what a restaurant has to be to sell alcohol in the first place. If a place in TN doesn't meet that definition, it cannot legally sell alcohol. So, if a place is holding itself out there as a restaurant with a liqour license, it is all of those things or it is illegal.


Rustmeister said...

Ah, good to know!