The iconic regional fast food chain Whataburger has a message for its Texas diners: No openly carrying gun-toting customers allowed.
Despite a recently passed law allowing licensed Texans to carry handguns in plain view, Whataburger President and CEO Preston Atkinson said that the restaurant will not allow the open carrying of guns on its properties.
“We’ve had many customers and employees tell us they’re uncomfortable being around someone with a visible firearm who is not a member of law enforcement, and as a business, we have to listen and value that feedback in the same way we value yours,” Atkinson said in a statement earlier this month.
“We have a responsibility to make sure everyone who walks into our restaurants feels comfortable. For that reason, we don’t restrict licensed concealed carry but do ask customers not to open carry in our restaurants.”
Just over a month ago, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the state’s open carry law, making it the 45th U.S. state to allow licensed citizens to carry handguns openly in plain view in belt or shoulder holsters. But the law, which will go into effect on January 1, 2016, also gives private property owners the right to prohibit open carry.
“Whataburger supports customers’ Second Amendment rights” and “proudly serve(s) the gun rights community,” said Preston, who also said he personally enjoys hunting and also has a concealed carry license. But he continued, “it’s a business decision we made a long time ago and have stood by.”
“We’re known for a family friendly atmosphere that customers have come to expect from us. We’re the gathering spot for Little League teams, church groups and high school kids after football games.”
Based in San Antonio, Texas, Whataburger has some 780 locations in 10 states and employs more than 34,000 people.
The chain’s decision is expected to pave the way for other restaurants in the state to enact similar policies, the Associated Press reported.
“It can’t be kept a secret,” Texas Restaurant Association CEO Richie Jackson told the AP. “Given the number of units that they have in Texas, they just wanted to make it very clear as to where they were going to be, and I would expect to see a number of restaurants follow.”