Republican Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to soon sign a law allowing concealed weapons permit holders to carry their guns into businesses that serve alcohol as long as they don’t drink — and as long as there are no signs saying they can’t.

Across the state, bar and restaurant owners have essentially been picking sides. Post a sign and potentially piss off gun owners, or don’t and potentially discourage patrons who would rather not eat or drink among people carrying guns.

Asked during a media availability in Charleston what side Haley would be on if she owned a bar or restaurant she said this:

This law says if you’re a CWP holder — and me being a CWP holder — you can’t have alcohol and carry. That is the overall rule of this state. So, I don’t have a problem with people carrying anywhere. And so if I had a restaurant or a bar, you’re not allowing people with guns to drink, you’re allowing people who normally have their guns to bring them into the restaurant.

Asked to clarify that she’d allow guns in her booze hall, Haley said “Absolutely.”

Around Charleston, progressive activists have been dropping off yellow flyers that alert hospitality workers to the likely change in gun laws. In media accounts, bar owners have been split on the issue. That’s representative of the S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, which hasn’t taken a position on the bill because its members are split. Association director John Durst says they started talking about the issue with their members when it was first introduced. “The ability of an establishment to ‘opt out’ has been important to our association,” he says.

A similar law passed in Ohio in 2011. Matthew MacLaren, president and CEO of the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association, says he doesn’t recall hearing any big issues about it since it became the norm. “With hotels it’s up to the individual operators if they want to post a sign prohibiting concealed carry. Some do and some don’t,” he says. “It’s a business decision. You have some patrons that appreciate no guns allowed and others that would rather see guns allowed.” 

Haley wrote on Facebook that lawmakers hadn’t yet ratified the bill, but once it reaches her desk she’ll sign it. A Senate aide expects the bill to be ratified this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow. 

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