You could miss it walking by. A small red circle with a line crossing over an image of a gun and a knife, printed on white paper and posted just east of the entrance: "NO WEAPONS."
But the makeshift sign outside Keefer's Restaurant on Chicago's Near North Side has attracted a lot of attention.
Under the recently passed concealed carry law, businesses can now choose whether to allow handguns on their property. If they post a sign outside their business declaring it gun-free, patrons are not allowed to bring them in.
But in deciding to ban or allow guns, business owners worry they may alienate patrons who support one side or the other. Business owners also worry their choice could saddle them with legal liability, should something go terribly wrong.
Illinois this month became the last state to allow concealed carry, and communities, authorities and residents are grappling with how to implement the change. Glenn Keefer, managing partner of Keefer's Restaurant, said he's a supporter of the Second Amendment and its emphasis on the right to bear arms. His family owns guns for protection.
"I just don't think alcohol and guns go together," Keefer said of his decision to ban them in his restaurant.
Under the law, concealed guns are banned at taverns and bars, but not at restaurants that mostly serve food, like Keefer's. Keefer put up the sign while waiting for official 4-by-6-inch signs that the Illinois State Police are required by law to design. At that time, unless a business has a sign posted prohibiting concealed weapons, residents with permits will be allowed to carry guns with them.
Some residents are expressing their desire to boycott businesses that prohibit — or for others, allow — carrying concealed weapons, nearly nine months before any Illinois resident could have a permit in hand.
Javier Arredondo, 43, of Chicago, criticized Keefer's decision on the restaurant's Facebook page and said he will avoid any business that bans patrons from carrying a handgun into their store.
"When a law-abiding citizen takes the time to go through the classes, get a (firearm owner's identification card) and get a permit, they're not the ones going around shooting people," Arredondo said in a phone interview. "If, God forbid, someone came in and tried to hold up the restaurant, any chance of a good guy carrying, that is gone."
Leaders at Pass Conceal Carry Illinois, a group started in March 2012 to advocate passing a concealed carry law in the state, said they will make fliers available to gun advocates on the group's website that they can give to businesses that ban concealed carry, letting them know they've lost business because of their stance.
"It's not a dis toward them or their policy. It's just us wanting to be able to protect ourselves," said Mike Elrod, co-founder of the group.
Some national chains — such as Starbucks Coffee Co., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc. — allow customers to have weapons where state and local law allows it, but they garnered criticism for their stance.
The National Gun Victims Action Council and other groups launched a boycott of Starbucks last year and claimed that 10,000 former Starbucks customers boycotted them, saying it may have cost the coffee chain $11 million.
Starbucks, which declined to comment on the boycott, said it emphasizes following local gun laws.
"We're extremely sensitive to the issue of gun violence in our society," Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson said. "But we think supporting local laws is the right way for us to ensure a safe environment."
Geography a factor
Some smaller businesses in Chicago say they intend to allow concealed carry in their shops, including Joe Trutin's store The Video Strip in McKinley Park. He said he'd welcome customers who go through the time and cost to get a gun legally.
"I'm not scared of those guns whatsoever. I'm scared of the illegal guns," Trutin said. "The people who've earned the right to carry these guns, I don't think I have to worry about them."
Several Chicago businesses, including the Daily Bar & Grill in Lincoln Square and the Blossom Boys floral shop in Beverly said they, like Keefer's, will put up signs prohibiting concealed carry and think their customers would want them to do so.
"We're always hesitant about putting up signs," said Greg Lamacki, director of operations for Spare Time Inc., which owns the Daily Bar & Grill, "but we think that customers are going to understand our intent."
Walking on West Kinzie Street after a late lunch at Keefer's, several Chicago-area diners said they support prohibiting guns at businesses.
"I prefer not to have guns where I'm eating," said Dan Buelow, 50, of Barrington.
That decision will likely vary by geography, advocates on both sides of the issue said. Downstate and suburban attitudes are typically more politically conservative, and therefore more supportive of gun rights than in Chicago.
"There are certain parts of the state where I think it's going to be easier," said Todd Maisch, executive vice president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. "If you're in deep southern Illinois, you're probably going to want clients happy and allow (concealed weapons). It's going to be dicier in other parts of the state when you risk alienating both sides."
Adam Fritz, owner of The Wood Loft, which sells custom Amish furniture in downstate Arthur, said he will allow customers to carry weapons.
"No one in this town will ban guns," he said. "Not everybody has a gun. We don't have gun racks in our trucks. But hunting is more prevalent, and people have been raised with it a little more. I don't see there being any issues."
Other states' lessons
Business owners in Illinois may be able to gauge what to expect from other states' experiences.
Ohio and Wisconsin's chambers of commerce said businesses never saw a discernible monetary impact when they passed concealed carry laws, which also gave businesses the right to choose.
"People would say ... I'm going to boycott a business that allows or doesn't allow (concealed carry)," said Julie Wagner Feasel, vice president of communications for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, "but that didn't happen."
Many of Ohio's businesses prohibit concealed carry, she said.
In Wisconsin, most businesses allow it, said Scott Manley, vice president of government relations for Wisconsin's chamber of commerce.
John Carpenter, executive vice president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, expects the decision to allow guns could become more of an issue about competition than owners' preference. If a store is gaining customers because it does or doesn't accept guns, its competitors may follow suit.
But businesses across the state, regardless of their consumers' views on gun control, are worried about liability if someone is shot on their property, a gray area that is not directly addressed in Illinois' law.
Most of Wisconsin's businesses are encouraged to allow concealed carry because, legally, they are immune from liability if they do, Manley said.
Illinois has no immunity clause. Although business owners can already keep a gun on the business property, employers worry that if they ban employees from being able to carry them personally, they could be held liable for preventing workers from defending themselves.
On the other hand, if businesses allow weapons inside, they may be held liable if something goes wrong when they had an option to prohibit them, experts say.
Without some sort of immunity clause in the law, both options leave risk for liability, said Jeff Risch, an attorney with the SmithAmundsen LLC law firm in Chicago who focuses on employment and liability law.
Businesses also must allow employees and customers to keep guns in their cars at company parking lots. But there is not much legal guidance as to whether businesses can restrict employees from carrying weapons while they're on the job elsewhere — such as with meter readers and home repair workers.
Mickey Schuch, president of the McHenry County Right to Carry Association in Woodstock, also runs a home remodeling business.
He carries a gun when working in states where it's legal, and he knows some home repairmen carry guns illegally in high-crime areas of Chicago to protect themselves.
"If a private business owner wishes to have a no-gun zone, they have the right to do that," he said. "I respect that, and I also have a right to shop somewhere else."Copyright © 2015, CT Now