People practice using guns at an introduction to handguns course at GAT Guns in East Dundee on July 10, 2013. (Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

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.

Boycotts threatened

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.