Restaurant and bar owners skeptical about new conceal-carry law

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Food, beer, and guns could soon be reality in some South Carolina bars and restaurants.

Thursday, the South Carolina House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would allow concealed weapons permit holders to bring their guns into places where alcohol is served.

Governor Nikki Haley is expected to sign the bill.

Under the bill, you can bring your gun in, but you can't drink alcohol. If you're caught drinking, you could lose your concealed weapons permit for up to five years and face jail time.

There's no shortage of places to grab a drink in Columbia's Five Points.

Soon, people could be bellying up to the bars, with concealed weapons in tow.

"I'm sure in the past there's been people in here with concealed weapons, ya know, you don't know it," said Marty Dreesen, owner of Bar None.

Dreesen has owned Bar None for 19 years. He's not a fan of the bill that would make it legal for concealed weapons permit holders to bring their guns into his business.

"I'm all for people having guns, but in a public place, especially a bar, you don't need guns," said Dreesen.

Under the bill, you can take your concealed weapons into places where alcohol is served, but you're not allowed to drink.

"As a bar owner, they put all the responsibility on us, and I don't see how I can be responsible for somebody with a concealed weapons permit, whether they drink or not, it's their responsibility and who is going to enforce that," said Dreesen.

Columbia's Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago said there's nothing wrong with it, as long as people are carrying the weapons properly.

"The reason why people want to carry a weapon legally is because they want to protect themselves," said Santiago.

That's something Dreesen said he worries about.

"More guns in public areas are not good. Say somebody robs me and they have a gun, last thing I want to do is have somebody from the crowd pull out a gun and start shooting at people," said Dreesen.

Business owners can decide to not allow guns in their establishments.

"I will put a sign that says no concealed weapons," said Dreesen.

So even if it gets the green light from Governor Haley, it doesn't mean concealed weapons will be allowed in all bars and restaurants.

WIS also talked with a concealed weapons permit instructor who says she is absolutely for the change. She says concealed weapons permit holders who follow the rules aren't going to stop being law-abiding citizens just because they have a gun in a place that serves alcohol.

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