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Which bars in downtown Greenville ban concealable weapons? What to know

A change in state law two months ago puts a key decision in the hands of South Carolina businesses: Will they allow customers to carry firearms on the premises?

On March 7, Governor Henry McMaster signed the “Constitutional Carry” bill passed by the state legislature. Unless a business marks itself as a gun-free zone, those 18 and older who are legally allowed to carry a firearm may do so without obtaining any form of permit or registration.

However, bars and establishments that serve alcohol walk a fine line. While they are among the businesses that can post a sign indicating whether or not weapons may be carried on the premises, customers are prohibited from consuming alcohol while carrying them, even at businesses without signs.

While Greenville bars differ on the rules for non-drinking customers, the lack of signage may not reflect the company’s policy for some.

There was no sign prohibiting firearms at the Carolina Ale House on South Main Street in Greenville on Monday.

Despite this, Lyle Garraux, general manager, previously told the News that carrying firearms is prohibited at his location and other Carolina Ale House franchises. He declined further comment but acknowledged that the new law could spark conversations about signals within the company’s management.

Here’s what you need to know about carrying firearms when visiting downtown bars.

Bars in downtown Greenville are banning concealable weapons

These bars had signs on them that read “No Concealable Weapons.”

  • Connolly’s Irish pub
  • Reys
  • City tavern
  • Gathering

At an April 9 event hosted by the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce, the General Counsel of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division advised local businesses on how to navigate the new law. One of the tips was to be as clear as possible with a sign to avoid confusion.

The use of the word “concealable” means a weapon that is less than 12 inches in length by its “largest dimension,” according to state law. So whether that weapon is carried openly or concealed, it is prohibited according to that wording.

More: SLED advises Spartanburg residents and entrepreneurs about the SC permit-free transportation law

‘Signs are for rule followers’

Suzanne Coe, owner of Connolly’s Irish Pub, said she has a strict policy against carrying firearms in the bar.

“My belief is that if an alcohol business owner does not know that guns and alcohol do not mix, he has no business with a bar. I will never allow guns into my establishment,” Coe said.

Coe, who is also a practicing attorney, said just because carrying firearms in a bar is legal in some cases doesn’t mean bar owners are free from civil liability.

Coe and Scott Woods, owner of City Tavern and co-owner of Society Sandwich Bar & Social Club, pointed to legislation a decade ago that for the first time allowed concealed weapons permit holders to carry them into alcoholic beverage establishments who chose to do not unsubscribe by posting characters. In 2014, then-Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill into law, stating that it would make bars safer, although the bill was met with some resistance.

Now the need for permits has been eliminated and the age limit has been lowered from 21 to 18 years. Woods noted the change in the age limit and the now non-existent need for concealed weapon permits.

“I didn’t hate that you had to have a little bit of training to be able to (carry),” Woods said.

Coe said she posted a sign on Connolly’s days after the 2014 law.

“We were the only place that put one of those up and I didn’t care how much fainting I got,” Coe said. “This is Connolly’s, the oldest bar in downtown Greenville, and I’m not going to let it go to waste because some Yahoo comes in and thinks he’s a gunslinger.”

Woods said the “no concealable weapons” sign at City Tavern was originally posted about a decade ago after Haley signed the bill, for insurance reasons related to the Alcohol Liability Act. Although he felt the latest law doesn’t change much, he described it as “a bit startling.”

“Personally, I think there may be a little danger (of individuals carrying guns in bars), but I don’t want to infringe on anyone’s freedoms,” Woods said.

Woods said the signs have remained up because the bar has not experienced any issues regarding carrying firearms, although he admitted that if someone concealed the carrying, they “wouldn’t know.” He said he thinks those who want to carry a weapon or break the law will likely ignore the sign, but if they are caught in the act, bar management will call 911.

“Signs are for rule followers,” Woods said.

Unlike Woods, Coe said her bar has encountered individuals carrying around or attempting to enter the premises, many of whom appear to be unaware of the law or bar policy. She added that while staff try to be fair to customers who offer to remove the weapon and store it somewhere else before entering, violators could be given a permanent violation and have their ammunition confiscated for violating the lines.

Coe rejected the idea that a well-meaning patron would stop an offender with a gun.

“You’re more likely to hit one of my people than someone else trying to rob the place,” Coe noted.

Bars in downtown Greenville with no signs

The following bars had no visible exterior signage when visited by News.

  • from Sharkey
  • DT’s Tavern
  • Sip
  • Carolina Ale House
  • Fieldhouse Jerky and Vine
  • Vello colleague
  • Jack Browns

Chalmers Rogland covers public safety for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Greenville News and USA Today Network. Reach him by email at [email protected].