Coalition files legal challenge to guns in bars

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 11:09am

A coalition, including Nashville restaurateur Randy Rayburn and nine Nashville waiters and waitresses, filed a legal challenge in Chancery Court today to the new state law allowing permit holders to carry guns in places that serve alcohol.

The suit, filed against Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper, seeks a temporary injunction before the law takes effect July 14. 

"Simply put, guns and alcohol don't mix," the suit states, calling the new law a "state-createed danger" for patrons, owners and employees of drinking establishments.

Representing Rayburn and the servers, who are listed in the complaint as John and Jane Does, are Nashville attorneys David Randolph Smith and Adam Dread.

“I would not file a lawsuit that I did not think had merit,” said Smith, whose legal research showed proponents of the new state law quoted faulty statistics regarding guns in bars policies nationwide. “I think we have a substantial claim for public nuisance and unconstitutionality and illegality of this statute as violating constitutional and statutory rights, particularly due process and the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Act.”

The new law allows permit holders to carry concealed weapons into establishments which serve alcohol, although those carrying are not allowed to drink.

Additionally, restaurant owners can post signs banning guns from their premises, but Smith said that protection doesn’t go far enough. Prior to the state legislature passing the new law, it was a criminal act to bring a gun into an alcohol-serving establishment. Now the crime is merely a Class A misdemeanor, punishable with a $500 fine, Smith said.

“It decriminalizes bringing guns into posted places,” Smith said.

Smith said Tennessee became the first state to expressly allow guns in places serving alcohol - guns are expressly prohibited in 24 states.

“No state, by statute or regulation, expressly allows firearms in bars,” the suit states. “Because bars, saloons, nightclubs and restaurants with bar areas are notorious for fights, assaults an breaches of the peace.”

The suit also quashes the notion that a ban on firearms in bars infringes on Second Amendment rights.

"The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is not implicated in this case," the suit states. "Just as there is no First Amendment right to falsely cry 'fire' in a crowded theater."

Smith said the nine servers filing the suit chose to remain anonymous for fear of public backlash.

A group of Metro Council members filed legislation aimed at keeping guns out of Nashville bars by regulating beer permits, but that effort failed after the Metro Department of Law said it was on shaky legal ground. Mayor Karl Dean called guns in bars a “bad idea.”

Council is in the middle of an effort to opt Davidson County out of a new state law allowing guns in public parks.

gunsinbarscomplaint.pdf379.63 KB

12 Comments on this post:

By: middlewb on 7/1/09 at 9:44

This has very little to do with employee safety or customer safety. Much of the suit is about bottom line profit. The people who carry are not allowed to drink in the establishment, therefore reducing the bottom line profits on the sale of Alcohol.

By: Cookie47 on 7/1/09 at 11:19

Good point.

Rayburn's bottom line will be further reduced when HCP holders don't eat at his restaurants.


By: idgaf on 7/1/09 at 11:34

It appears that they edited out the morning comments.

By: Cookie47 on 7/1/09 at 12:28

By: idgaf on 7/1/09 at 12:34

It appears that they edited out the morning comments.
They're still here. They're on a different article.


By: PYRO on 7/1/09 at 12:45

"Smith said the nine servers filing the suit chose to remain anonymous for fear of public backlash."

I am sorry but people filing a suit to restrict my right should not be able to stay anonymous. If they chose to not state their name and place of business then they should not be counted in the suit. Hiding makes you look like a coward, a coward who wants a say but doesn't want a responsiblity........You can see our names, why can we not see yours.

By: Cookie47 on 7/1/09 at 12:57


It's the liberal double-standard. You also have to remember they're scared of us, the law-abiding, handgun carry permit people. I'm not scary. Are you, PYRO? Are any of you other HCP holders that may read this?

One of the biggest problems is Nashville has become a liberal wasteland and Rayburn's restaurants are in the areas of town that are the armpits of this wasteland. (Yes, Kosh, if you read this, I'm name-calling again. Why would I want the liberals to have all the fun.)

It's simple. Just don't patronize his restaurants. It's all about the bottom line.


By: Nikki2009 on 7/1/09 at 2:33

I honestly think people are missing the biggest issue. The only people that will be stopped from bringing handguns into restaurents are the HCP holders. Your everyday run of the mill criminal will still take guns where ever they please. It is already against the law to drink while carrying. I just don't understand how this is a public safety issue. If that is the case, then all handgun permits are a public safety issue!!

What I find funny is that three other laws (guns in state parks, shotguns in cars, and "Made in Tennesse") have all passed with little coverage by the media. Yet, this one is really being blown out of the water, mainly because people are not stating all the facts on either side. We, the law abiding Handgun carry permit holders, are not the problem. Most of us exercise common sense, if I know I am going to drink, my gun stays at home. This is just political.

Just as I have stopped patronizing Hickory Hollow mall (who needs all the help they can get) becasue they do not want HCP holders to bring their guns inside; I will never set foot in those restaurants again!

By: Cookie47 on 7/1/09 at 3:06


All the things we've had to do to get our permits have been posted on these sites. I've posted them a few times myself. They just don't want to listen. They know a HCP holder can't drink and carry so they don't want us in a seat where a drinker, spending a lot of money, could be.


By: Nikki2009 on 7/1/09 at 3:18

I keeping thinking back to the the O'Charley's incident last year when they guy was stabbed. What if there would have been a HCP holder there allowed to have their on in the building? All of those people may have been spared the trauma of watching someone die.

By: Cookie47 on 7/1/09 at 3:44

Thanks, Nikki.

The biggest problem I have with all this is the way they're casting ALL HCP holders in a bad light but at the same time say nothing about the criminals that carry any where they want, the law be damned. We aren't the bad people here. Why is that so hard for them understand?


By: Nikki2009 on 7/1/09 at 4:00

I agree Cookie! We have done nothing wrong but exercised our rights and we are the bad guys! I just do not understand.

By: frodo on 7/2/09 at 7:32

PYRO makes a good point about the anonymous filers of this suit. Whatever law makes it possible to bring a suit anonymously needs revision, and soon. Although, it shouldn't take a Sherlock Holmes to conclude that those wait staff who filed the suit are on Randy Rayburn's payroll. Is there a law about being coerced into participating in a lawsuit? What do they call it when an employee must perform acts not connected with the job in order to keep their job?

Randy Rayburn never saw a headline he wasn't eager to grab. This is just another publicity stunt, and I allege that his employees feel they have no choice but to join this stunt.