What should you do when Open Carry activists walk into the restaurant you're in?

rgz_open_carry_07There are articles going around saying if Open Carry zealots enter the restaurant you’re in, get up and leave without paying. They’re only half right. Leave the restaurant? Yes. If everybody does that, yes it will send a strong message against Open Carry crazies. A mass exodus will be a chilling site.

Leave your bill unpaid? No. Get your check and pay it immediately, and explain why you are leaving. Clear your family out, wait at the entrance, pay your bill there. Or call from outside to make payment arrangements.

Speaking as an experienced veteran of the restaurant industry, many servers or bartenders get stuck with unpaid bills. Most live off of their tips alone, and getting stuck with even one large unpaid check can wipe out much of their shift. A whole room of them? Devastation. It’s a tough business, and sticking these workers with unpaid checks will actually take food out of people’s mouths.

No restaurant owner can legally dock a server or bartender for a skipped check. But it still happens all the time. Maybe it didn’t happen at the place you worked, but trust me, there are restaurant/bar workers reading this right now and nodding grimly in agreement.

Restaurant workers have very little legal recourse other than go find another job to pay your bills because you got fired for talking back. Hopefully things will eventually be filed in your favor, many months later, and your boss has to pay you back that check he made you eat and maybe some damages if you’re lucky. But enforcing that decision is another long merry go round that most servers can’t afford to ride, especially if they have children to feed.

All for maybe a few hundred bucks, you could lose thousands and thousands in lost pay due to time spent looking for another job, getting shifts covered to make the possible appearances, and so on and so forth. Some owners get held accountable for cheating servers. Many don’t. And sometimes the worker has no other options available.

Is this practice illegal? Yes. Does it happen on a regular basis? Absolutely. Especially in Right to Work States, like Texas, where workers’ rights are suppressed in favor of the “job creators.” Oh yeah, Texas is an Open Carry State too. See where this is going?

Most often, it’s just not worth the damn hassle for the server to fight back against being made to pay a left check, and owners know that. Especially if they have people coming through the door every day looking for jobs. Facts of life in “The Industry.” Some places are good. Some are bad.

Remember, the restaurants did not ask for this, it’s been foisted upon them by the gun crazies. Don’t punish them for those zealots’ asshole behavior. No restaurant wants to cater to a group that clears the place out, but running on your bill will shift public anger to YOU, not the gun nuts.

While composing this piece, the somber news broke about an Open Carry activist shooting a woman to death. It was a stark reminder of just how serious this issue really is. It filled this writer with many doubts about what I was forwarding.

This idea needed to be run by a few people. I asked three of the smartest Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) activists around about the idea of dashing out of the restaurant upon first sight of Open Carry nuts. Here’s what Lana, Bill, and Amanda had to say.

From Amanda:

“I would totally walk out too, but you have to pay if you don’t actually think they are about to kill you. I don’t trust them, either, but I would be lying if I said that I was so immediately scared I had no choice but to run out without paying.”

From Lana:

“This type of protest, as well intended as it might be, reeks of white privilege. Its not the kind of protest everyone can participate in. Do you see ethnic minorities being able to walk out on a tab because of gun nuts?”

From Bill:

“It’s an issue of class and race. It plays to the ‘white suburban elitist’ label the gun nuts like to place on GVP advocates. And in this case they would not be wrong.

$_86Whether there’s a restaurant rule about sticking wait staff with the bill or not, you’re creating a pain in the ass for the workers to clean up. You’re acting entitled. You’re doing it because you think you can and you’re using the excuse ‘I’m doing it for my kids.’

Well, who the fuck does that sound like?

The suggestion of walking out of the restaurant to send a message is premised on the idea that there’s no other option. Which is the kind of simplistic thinking we ordinarily criticize gun nuts for.”

Amanda again:

“Obviously if you were in a position where you felt there was an immediate, direct threat to your life, you would leave without paying and nobody would need to put forth an argument for you to do so because it would be automatic.

That is what rubs me the wrong way about the piece that was floating around – the advice was to skip out on the bill just because you don’t like the presence of the people.”


“We like to say that gun nuts’ view of society and civilization is a primitive, unsophisticated one. It’s not complex and nuanced and they don’t know how to think their way through a problem. Everything’s reduced to fight or flight with them.

Running out of a restaurant? Yeah–that would be the flight part. And guess who’s just pulled you into their world view?

First and foremost. You ask to cancel the order. If it’s already being cooked, you take it to go. You tip and you pay. You ask to speak to the manager. You explain to the manager the problem, why you’re leaving, why you likely won’t be back, and then you find out who to write a communication to and let them know your feelings.

It’s called being civilized. Which is ultimately the goal of GVP, isn’t it?”

Don’t use Open Carry as an excuse to dine and dash is the point, basically. Get out, yes. If you really think you’re in danger, you need to put your family’s and your own safety first. But pay your bill. Call them back with your credit card info, or arrange to return to pay the bill.

repost-us-13691110As they continue to demonstrate, these Open Carry fanatics are dangerous assholes. Anybody who has to walk around with a gun to be all tough or act like a hero is someone who has to feel like they’re better than you. Jerks like that are the most hated customers in all of the restaurant industry. They’re loud pains in the ass who generally don’t tip well and drive everyone else away.

Still, two wrongs do not make a right, and those big mouth gunnie bastards will howl it from the rooftops that the people who oppose them are thieves. Don’t give them that justification, no matter how much of a false premise it is based upon.

To illustrate properly that restaurants will lose your business by allowing Open Carry, they should miss your business and want it back. Stiffing them on your bill isn’t the way to do that. Now, the gun nuts are the better customers. That’s exactly counter to the point you’re trying to make.

Dave Barry once said that a person who is nice to you but is not nice to the waiter is not a nice person. So don’t be that person. It’s really that simple.

Chad R. MacDonald has a degree in English literature from Cape Breton University and subsequently received a full scholarship to AMDA in New York City. He is a former security professional, veteran of the hospitality industry, and experienced in both the arts as well as administration.He has been writing all his life, likes baseball, hockey, literature, science, the arts, and marine photography.Chad lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son and their gigantic cat.


  1. I think you should all shove back your chairs, throw yourselves to the floor and start screaming, “THEY’VE GOT GUNS!!!” causing a huge panic which maybe will cause the open carry folks to not come back. And then not come back yourself until the restaurant stops supporting such obvious fear mongering by people who are not satisfied until everyone else is as afraid as they are.

  2. Excuse me, waitress. Does this place let people with guns enter this place as those men over there have done?
    OK, here is $20 for my tip to you. Please tell the management I do not feel safe here and I will come back once he does not allow people to carry weapons into this place. Here is my phone number to settle up the bill and I will come back when he calls me. If he tries to dock your pay or blame you, point to the phone number and tell him to call me. I will gladly pay at a place that is outside of the premises.

  3. I agree with most of the responders that I would leave any establishment if I knew someone was packing, open or otherwise. I would let management know why in clear and certain terms if I felt unsafe in his establishment for any reason at all. And I would make it clear I would not return if the threat was not removed. But just as interesting as the gun question to me is why any restaurant worker should be held responsible for someone who skips out without paying his bill. Shouldn’t a manager or someone in authority be responsible for watching that? It is pathetic enough that many wait staff do not even get paid minimum wage but must depend on tips. To charge them for jerks who steal food and services by skipping out on their bills is just plain wrong no matter what the cause. I can understand under certain circumstances, a patron refusing to pay for a meal, but no way should the wait staff have to pay for it. But whether the wait staff is charged or not, and unless you are somehow prevented from doing so ( immediate danger maybe), if you ate the food, you owe for it. Not paying is theft.

  4. I never stick around when there are guns carried in public, It is a direct threat to MY safety. I clear out and call 911. If at a restaurant and have been served, if I have eaten I pay later. If not served or not eaten, I do call but do not pay. If they want to comp my meal at a later safe time, then I do pay. I always tip my server well as that is their income and the server has NO say in the activities of the establishment. I make the establishment pay the price for allowing a bad policy to allow gun totters in. At the very least if they are allowed to carry, they have an encounter with the police. If they cause any problems with the police, they are then escorted to the police dept. Although they may have the RIGHT to carry, if it creates any terror or fear to others, it could cost them for carrying. Just because it is your right, does not mean there is no price to pay for exercising that right. YOU do not have any right to cause fear or to terrorize me. And for that you will have to pay a price.

  5. It’s very important, an essential must-do, after leaving an establishment that an armed American has entered simply because he’s armed, to immediately return home, pack, and make suitable arrangements for passage to France. Rehome any pets, arrange shipping for belongings, and bundle internet capable devices into your carryon to search for housing during transit. There’s no time to lose, in America, you are surrounded at all times by armed Americans.

    • Here’s a better idea, you leave… Were done with your foolish stunts and bull… I have traveled quite extensively and never yet been asked to shoot my own meal at a steakhouse or drive through. If you and your bedwetting paranoid pals have to carry your metal pecker around, your a possible threat to myself and the rest of the sane, non paranoid citizens around you.

  6. If this is allowed and I don’t finish my meal, I’m not paying shit. I will express this to the establishment as I am leaving.

  7. A degree in English Lit????? wow…hope that was worth the $$…by the way, did you every serve in US military? guess not……or else you would recognize the importance of freedoms including the 2nd amendment. then running away and not protecting yourself or your family…….

    • I’ve served in the military. In fact I’ve served in two different branches and during wartime.

      It doesn’t matter if carrying openly is legal. Frightening civilians is stupid and against the law. In some states it’s called disturbing the peace, others call it disorderly conduct.

      I swore an oath to protect this country and it’s citizens from from those who would threaten our American way of life.

      The majority of this country doesn’t want guns in their faces while they’re in public. Accept that. Respect that. Support that.

      I own several firearms. The only time you’ll see them in public is when I’m at the firing range.

      When you open carry you frighten people. If you’re terrorizing civilians in my neighborhood, if you’re terrorizing my children or family, I’m going to be justifiably motivated to draw my concealed weapon and put two slugs center mass into your chest.

      Don’t be a terrorist. Don’t be the problem. Respect your fellow citizens and keep your weapons concealed.

      • I personally don’t open carry but I have to respond.

        You’re an idiot. People may be frightened of open carry but, where it is legal, you can’t be arrested for it. Just because society is becoming a bunch of scared, offended by everything pansies doesn’t mean anyone has the right to trample on the”inalienable rights, endowed by their creator”. Open carry when legal is neither disturbing the peace nor disorderly conduct.
        You’re an idiot. No where in the oath for military service does it specify protecting our ‘American way of life”, the constitution, yes, from all enemies foreign and domestic, yes.
        You’re an idiot, you can’t shoot someone for frightening or terrorizing anyone. Maybe you shouldn’t be allowed to carry.

        And for all you constitution scholars out there, the constitution does not give anyone the right to do anything. It limits the government’s ability to infringe on your natural rights.

    • Linda….you are an inarticulate imbecile. You can’t even write simple sentences with rudimentary punctuation. Why is it that ignoramuses like you are always obsessed with your bullshit, primitive, jingoistic concept of “freedom”? Just shut up and let the educated people talk.

  8. I appreciate your concern for the waitstaff. When I was a waitress we were responsible for the unpaid bills of walkouts. That being said if someone came into a restaurant where I was eating and they were carrying a gun I would not stick around to find out if they were friendly. Having seen a man pull his gun to shoot a guy who insulted him, I have had the experience of being around gunfire and it scared the crap out of me. I hid under a table for a long time. Would much rather walk out first. I would however pay my server later after explaining my reason for the dine and ditch.

  9. “Speaking as an experienced veteran of the restaurant industry, many servers or bartenders get stuck with unpaid bills.” Um maybe you shouldn’t work at a restaurant that serves people with guns!

  10. Get up. Go to the counter and pay for your food.
    Get a To Go container and put your food in it.
    Then find an exit that sets off an alarm…..

  11. I feel I have absolutely no obligation to stay if a business establishment doesn’t provide what I believe is a safe atmosphere. A restaurant is there to provide food, do it promptly, and do it safely. The experience shouldn’t leave you fearful of your life and if that experience does make you feel fearful the restaurant has abrogated the implied contract between the business and you, the consumer and you should be under absolutely no obligation to pay for that type of experience.

    Let’s cast this experience in a different light. Say an African American is dining and someone walks in, sits down at a nearby table and decides to “exercise their First Amendment right of free speech” which includes making racist comments about the black diner. Do you think the black diner, who has not finished his meal has any obligation to pay for the experience if the restaurant permits it? While the black diner may not feel in threat for his life, I believe leaving without paying would be justified since the contract between the restaurant and the diner would have been violated.

    My concern for the sub-standard pay my server might receive would certainly be somewhat curtailed if I was wounded by gunfire or dead. While it certainly wouldn’t be their fault if an open carry advocate walked in, I’m certainly not going to stick around to make sure my meal, which has been made unpleasant and potentially life-threatening due to the policies of their employer will be paid for. Sorry, about that, but I’m hitting the emergency exit!

    Any establishment allowing open carry on their premises should post their policy prominently on their door. That way, those persons, like me, who don’t wish to be a customer of the business can go elsewhere.

    • There is no implied contract in this case. No one can control someone coming into their business if the state has an open carry statute. And there is no First Amendment right of free speech in a restaurant. Please read the First Amendment again. It only says the government can’t impede your speech. The restaurant owner can throw you out for whatever reason. The said diner – whether he/she feels threatened by racist speech or an open carry gun, is still under a state obligation to pay for their service/food.

    • Your argument about a black diner getting to eat without paying for it if someone makes racist comments from another table is not a strong one. Here’s why: Did the African American diner complain to the management about the behavior of the offensive table? Did they give the management a chance to them go over to the table and tell the offenders to either shut up or leave? If the black person did not do those things, then they absolutely are not able to claim their food is free. Just like with sexual harassment, the person feeling harassed must tell the harasser that they are offended and not to do it again. If the harasser persists, THAT is sexual harassment and management can suspend or fire the offender.

      If the black diner did complain to management and management just shrugs their shoulders, the black diner can leave, but while morally they should not have to pay for their meal, legally, they do, unless management waives payment. “Moral” and “legal” do not always go hand in hand.

      The diner has the right to leave if they feel unsafe. The also have the right to tell the management that not only will they leave, the will give the restaurant a bad review because they let people open-carry in their establishment, making diners feel unsafe, but unless the restaurant offers to let you dine for free, you can’t expect nor can you consider it legal to dash and dine.

      Now if someone is pointing a gun at you, feel free to run like hell – payment be damned.

  12. I would stay at the restaurant and I would shake the hand of the individual that was open carrying and I would let that individual know that I support their Second Amendment right to carry a gun.

  13. Any establishment that permits open carry gun nuts on the premises deserves to be stiffed! I will leave every time and never return regardless of the status of my bill. I have found that financial failure or success is a very powerful tool in combating ignorance!

  14. No!

    If a person (or group) walks into a restaurant or store with a gun(s) get yourself and family out immediately.

    If the bill is on the table then take it. If not, do not wait to pay the bill.

    You have no idea if the person is about to “go postal” in the place or if they are an open carry nut.

    Leave the premises, call the police. After the restaurant is cleared of gun nuts then go back and pay the bill.

  15. I told my girls, a long time ago, if I ever saw someone carrying a weapon in any business setting, I would just turn tail and walk out, but not without telling owner or manager why. I have no intention guessing if the gun owner is responsible or not. I have my choices too. I choose not to take the risk.

  16. If I see a gun, I leave. Time is NOT on my side against bullets. I find it hard to believe you are advocating that people risk their lives to stick around and see what the jerk’s intentions really are (open carry nut versus psychotic killer). I absolutely would pay my bill later, but that is because I have a conscious.

    • No, I’m not advocating you risk your life. Especially in the light of the latest Open carry murder, the news of which broke while I was composing this piece. That’s why I reached out to smarter people than me, and included their opinions too.

      I said the same thing you just did, leave if you feel in danger. Also as you did, I recommended paying the bill later. We’re on the same page.

      Thank you for reading.

  17. Sorry for the servers. But I disagree.
    It is precisely this sort of extreme response to Ammosexual open carry gun nuts, that will ensure that establishments that support this sort of crazy get hit where it counts.
    That includes all their employees. What snout servers who support open carry? What about if ONE open carry gun nut really does go batshit snd starts shooting up the place?
    To the servers: if you don’t support opena carry,
    Go work elsewhere.

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