No guns policy at new Toby Keith restaurant in Woodbridge

No guns policy at new Toby Keith restaurant in Woodbridge

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WOODBRIDGE, Va. -

A big country star opened a huge, new restaurant last week in Woodbridge, Va. But a house rule for the new establishment is roiling some Virginians: no guns are allowed inside.

Toby Keith is not only a hugely successful country star (and actor), he also has personally opened a couple of restaurants, and through other companies, has now expanded those establishments into about a dozen cities.

The latest Toby Keith restaurant opened in Woodbridge. Prominently displayed on the front door is a sign saying: “NO GUNS PERMITTED.”

Virginia happens to be a gun-friendly state, where it’s quite permissible for citizens to strap on a weapon and go into a bar or restaurant, as long as the weapon is clearly visible. State law is silent on the issue of drinking while openly carrying a gun. (State law does prohibit most citizens who are legally carrying a concealed weapon from consuming alcohol, but they, too, are allowed to go into a bar or restaurant.)

The owners have the right to say "no" to firearms, and that's the rule at Keith's Woodbridge restaurant.

Facebook has erupted over the issue, with one patron saying she's "disappointed" and believes the no guns policy announces to criminals that "anyone leaving your establishment is likely completely defenseless and easy pickin's for a robbery." That poster said she will not patronize the new Toby Keith restaurant.

Another person wrote on the restaurant's Facebook page: the no guns policy is "sad" and it creates a "more dangerous environment."

The manager of the new restaurant declined to be interviewed, and the company that owns it did not respond to our inquiry. So, we asked customers outside what they think of the no guns policy.

"Well, I think it's a great idea," said Jayne Marconi, a visitor from Ohio. "Anywhere there's an establishment that serves alcohol, I'm going to tell you right now, alcohol can make you do funny things. So that [pointing to the "no guns" sign] absolutely makes me feel more comfortable."

Clator Butler, a Woodbridge resident, said the posted policy should be no issue at all.

"It's a private business," said Butler, "and [the business] has the right to set the rules that it wants."

We didn't find anyone at Toby Keith's who objected to the no guns rule. It's possible we found no dissension because gun fans are boycotting the establishment. If that's happening, the boycott doesn't appear to be effective. At lunchtime, there was a 20-minute wait for tables.

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