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Local businesses face choice on concealed weapons

With concealed carry permits being sought by Illinois residents, some business owners are faced with the decision of whether they want to post a sign restricting concealed carry firearms from entering their establishment, while other business owners have had the decision made for them either by law or by corporate offices.

"There are 23 prohibited places that concealed-carry permit holders are not able to carry their gun," Morris police chief Brent Dite said. "Others need to make the decision for themselves."

Lois and Scott Darlington, owners of Clayton's in Morris, have had the decision made for them, and they agree with it.

"A bar is definitely not the place for concealed carry," Lois said. "We want no part of it."

All bars are prohibited areas, as are any restaurant which has more than 50 percent of it's gross receipts from alcohol in the three months prior.

"Liquor and guns don't go together," Lois said. "Liquor and fists are bad enough."

She said they see their fair share of scuffles and fights, and wouldn't want to imagine what would happen if one of the people in the altercation had a gun on them.

Dite said there is training through Illinois Basset Certification that will address the issue with bartenders who attend the class to become licensed.

"The program trains servers how to serve alcohol as well as to be careful when it comes to the people they are serving," Dite said.

Lois said they have put other safeguards in place, including having bouncers work on more weekends, not just when they have live music.

While bars are clear cut cases, restaurants that serve alcohol face a tougher decision. It's clear that if more than 50 percent of their gross sales are from liquor in a three-month span, they are a prohibited area. But what if gross sales change from month to month, do they want to place the sign up only when it's prohibited? What confusion would that cause?

"My feeling is they need to become a prohibited area since anyone that is under the influence can't carry," Dite said. "So we have to hope the owners ask themselves, 'Do we really want someone drinking with a gun?'"

Some other businesses also are off limits due to the services they offer.

Animal Care Hospital in Morris recently placed the required sign at its entrance prohibiting those with a concealed-carry permit from entering with a gun. The law isn't clear on whether a veterinary hospital is prohibited.

"We see ourselves as a medical facility so we have opted to place the sign," Matt Johnson, hospital manager, said.

The law does state that hospitals are prohibited locations but doesn't define if that pertains only to facilities that treat people.

A man who identified himself as James, the manager at the Shell Station in Mazon, said a sign is posted at his location due to a letter from the Shell corporate offices stating they had to post it. The U.S. corporate offices in Texas did not respond to a request to discuss the decision.

Small local retailers have to put a lot more thought into whether they want to be a prohibited area or not. They have customers that likely fall on either side of the concealed carry debate.

"A retailer can't offend anyone," Steve Matteson, owner of Matteson Ace Hardware, said. "Every customer is important to me."

He said it is important to stay neutral. A customer can choose whether to do business at a retail location.

The law still has many gray areas, according to Dite.

A public park is a prohibited area. However, on a path through the park that is the direct route from point A to point B, a person can carry as they pass through. However, the minute they step off the path into the playground area they are in violation.

If a person is caught carrying in a prohibited area, whether defined by law or by posted signs, they can be found guilty of a class B misdemeanor for the first offense, a Class A for the second offense and a class 4 felony for the third offense.

If they are caught carrying under the influence, it starts with a Class A misdemeanor for the first two offenses and a Class 4 felony for the third offense.

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