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Pinewood, Marlay – Decatur not affected by HB 60

Decatur Kirkwood and East Lake

Pinewood, Marlay – Decatur not affected by HB 60

Illustration. Wikimedia Commons.

Illustration. Wikimedia Commons.

This story corrects earlier articles published on Decaturish.com about House Bill 60. For more information, please see the editor’s note at the end of this story. 

Local businesses that serve alcohol recently weighed in on a controversial piece of legislation signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

House Bill 60, dubbed “guns everywhere” by its opponents, does many things that broaden the rights of gun owners. One of the more controversial things it does is allow for the carrying of guns inside bars, unless a property owner specifically prohibits it.

Thinking Man in Decatur first weighed in on the issue, saying guns wouldn’t be allowed there. Decaturish.com reached out to other businesses around town, using a list of Pubs/Bars published on the city of Decatur’s website as a reference. Square Pub weighed in and said guns would not be allowed.

The Pinewood Tippling room said it would not adopt a policy barring patrons from bringing guns into its restaurant.  After Decaturish published that article outlining the Pinewood’s stance, the Pinewood responded by saying that there are no bars in Decatur, only restaurants. Darren Comer, co-owner of The Marlay House, said the same thing.

“Upon further research, the concealed carry laws already allowed carry in our restaurant,” Comer said.

The owners of Pinewood and Marlay are right.

The bill doesn’t change the status quo for restaurants, and there are no bars in the city, in the legal sense of that term. The confusion arises from the colloquial use of the term “bar,” the legal definition of the word and the distinctions between a restaurant and a restaurant that serves alcohol.

City Manager Peggy Merriss said the city does not allow bars. She said a restaurant is defined as a business that makes 50 percent of its revenue from food or, “Derives at least 40 percent of its total annual gross sales from the sale of prepared meals or food and provides chairs, tables, and counters to seat and serve 50 or more persons.”

All of the Pubs/Bars listed on the city’s website actually are, legally speaking, restaurants that serve alcohol. It has been legal to carry in restaurants that serve alcohol since 2008, according to Jerry Henry, Executive Director of the Second Amendment advocacy group Georgia Carry.

He said the passage of House Bill 89 in 2008 made it legal to carry a gun into a restaurant that served alcohol, unless the owner didn’t allow it.

“Up to that date, it was against the law to carry into a restaurant that served alcohol,” he said.

So what does House Bill 60 do?

“It removes the requirement that you get the permission of a bar owner before you go into a bar (with a gun),” Henry said.

A state organization that fought against House Bill 60 agrees with Henry’s assessment of the new law as it relates to restaurants.

Alice Johnson,  Executive Director of Georgians for Gun Safety, said the bill is “terrible” but it has nothing to do with restaurants that serve alcohol, as they are legally defined.

“However, any bar or restaurant owner who desires to prevent guns from being carried in their establishment are able to post a sign and to enforce their own rules and regulations as private property owners,” Johnson said.

News reports about the bill have provided conflicting information about the meaning of the new law. For example, a New York Times article had this lede:

ATLANTA — Pro- and anti-gun forces do not agree on much, but they do agree on the breathtaking sweep of the Georgia legislation allowing guns in bars, schools, restaurants, churches and airports that is now awaiting the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal.

When it came to providing conflicting information about the bill, it wasn’t limited to venerable news organizations like the New York Times.

Huffington Post also reported that HB 60 applied to restaurants.

The conservative website News Max reported it, too, citing the New York Times Article.

Bearingarms.com, a pro Second Amendment website, reported that it applied to restaurants and cited the Huffington Post article.

That isn’t the only confusing information that’s out there regarding House Bill 60.  An article published by the My Security Sign blog, a website dedicated to news about home security, says it is illegal to drink and carry a firearm under the new law:

The bill currently awaits Governor Nathan Deal’s signature, but if implemented, the new regulations will allow guns in churches and in bars and restaurants where liquor is served (as long as the gun owner does not consume alcohol).

That claim about House Bill 60 has been repeated in comments on news articles and on social networking sites.

But that’s not the case, according to Henry with Georgia Carry. He said it is legal to carry a firearm and drink. You just can’t shoot a gun while drunk, he said.

“The only provision about drinking and firearms is that it is illegal to discharge a firearm if you are under the influence of alcohol unless it’s in defense of life,” Henry said.

Still confused? Apparently the confusion about Georgia’s changing gun laws isn’t new.

In 2008, when the Legislature passed House Bill 89, there was concern it might be difficult for most people to understand.

Attorney Charles Hoff in 2008 wrote a letter on behalf of the Georgia Restaurant Association outlining the group’s concerns with HB 89.

One of the GRA’s main objections to the law was the possibility of “Public Confusion.”

“Although HB 89 does distinguish between a gun and a permit holder’s ability to carry a gun into a restaurant as opposed to a bar, the public will never be able to discern the legal distinction established by the Legislature which defines restaurants, as opposed to bars, as establishments that derive over 50 percent of their gross income from food as opposed to alcoholic beverages,” the letter says.


Editor’s note: This is probably the longest correction-update-clarification I’ve ever had to write. I value accuracy and when I get something wrong, I try to fix it. When I published my first article about House Bill 60, the so-called “guns everywhere” bill, I thought I had a clear understanding of the bill’s effects. I did not.

When I asked local businesses whether they would allow guns, I believed the premise of that question to be correct. Most businesses answered the question on its merits. I have since learned that the premise behind the question was flawed. It was not my intention to present the information in a misleading way. I was simply misinformed.

This was a divisive law passed during an election year. I didn’t treat the subject with the skepticism that it deserved, and for that I apologize. I hope this post provides context and clarity that was lacking in my initial reporting.