New law leaves Wichita businesses gun-shy
Banks and sports bars are reviewing their firearms policies before Kansas' concealed-carry law takes effect Jan. 1.
BY NICHOLAS JUNGMAN
The Wichita Eagle
Some local businesses are making plans to ban concealed weapons on their premises when a new state law goes into effect Jan. 1. In particular, many banks and sports bars say they will post signs that make clear their customers can't bring guns inside.
"We are not going to allow weapons in Champs Bar & Grill," said Dennis Lanham, owner of the sports bar at 1106 S. Seneca. "Alcohol and guns do not mix."
The new law recognizes that opinion, to a degree. Passed March 23 by the Kansas Legislature over Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' veto, the law lists drinking establishments as one of 21 venues where concealed weapons are prohibited.
But the law makes an exception for drinking establishments that are also restaurants. If a bar generates at least 30 percent of its sales from food, it's a restaurant under state law, and a person with the proper permit could carry a concealed weapon there. Most of Wichita's sports bars qualify as restaurants.
However, the law also allows individual businesses of any type to ban weapons at their own discretion simply by posting signs at their entrances.
Champs Bar & Grill plans to exercise that discretion.
Lanham, the Champs owner, says he's not a fan of the concealed-carry law, but he'll adapt to it. He's planning not only to post signs banning guns, but to have a gun locker where patrons can check their weapons.
"You know, just like the old Western days," Lanham said.
Tina Rose, bar manager at Heroes Sports Bar in Old Town, said her restaurant wants to keep guns out but isn't sure that simply posting a sign prohibiting them will have much effect.
"How are we to know if they're not concealing and carrying?" she asked.
So if Heroes does decide to ban guns, Rose said, it may go the extra step of doing pat-down searches of customers on its busiest nights.
"It's one thing that's in the back of our minds," Rose said. "But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
On the other hand, Dave Chaffin, owner of Players Sports Bar at 6200 W. 21st St., said that, although he doesn't like concealed-carry, he's assuming it won't be a problem.
"In 23 years, I've never seen a firearm in this place," he said, "and I don't expect to see one in the next 23 years."
Banks are another business sensitive about guns, and some are wrestling with what their policy should be.
Diane Iseman, vice president for corporate communications at Intrust Bank, said the bank already has a clear policy that would prohibit a bank employee from carrying a firearm at work.
But, she said, the bank will have to consider what its policy will be for customers' firearms.
"That will definitely be under review here," she said.
Teri Ginther, executive vice president at Emprise Bank, said that because banks are always at risk for robbery, they need a firm policy on concealed weapons. But the bank hasn't decided yet what that policy should be.
In the past, Ginther said, bankers' instincts have been to get anyone with a weapon out of the bank as quickly as possible. She worries that if customers begin carrying concealed weapons into branches, one of them someday will witness a robbery and try to get involved.
"My greatest fear is that someone will take the law into their own hands," Ginther said.
Still, she isn't sure whether posting a ban is the answer.
Local banks could take their cues from area banks that do business in states that already allow concealed weapons.
Both Commerce Bank and Bank of the West will prohibit weapons at their Kansas branches, spokespeople said, just as they do in other states.
Commerce Bank's director of security, Chuck Mansell, has dealt with the issue in the bank's home state of Missouri.
There, Commerce Bank branches have signs at their entrances advising customers that they cannot bring their weapons inside, Mansell said, and similar signs will go up at Kansas branches.
Mansell said he thinks the signs work.
"Generally, we believe all law-abiding citizens will abide by our request," he said, noting that no Commerce facility had ever had an incident involving a customer's concealed weapon.
Reach Nick Jungman at (316) 268-6467 or firstname.lastname@example.org