The nation is talking about Texas’s new open carry policy, and two pistol-packing pitmasters are grabbing headlines for their opposing views. Trent Brooks, of Brooks Place BBQ, welcomes open carriers to his Cypress barbecue trailer, and in fact offers a ten percent discount for anyone showing off their firearm (the 25 percent discount reported by many was just for New Years Day); on the flip side, Jack Perkins of Slow Bone Barbeque in Dallas is asking gun owners to keep it concealed when they visit.
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When Jack Perkins talked with Fox Business (and NPR’s All Things Considered) about the decision, he mentioned that he routinely carries a concealed handgun and because of that, he and his business “welcome concealed handguns in the restaurant.” Anything less would be hypocritical. But the open carry question for him is one of hospitality. He wants his guests to enjoy their brisket without gun play being front of mind. “If there are three or four people in the restaurant all carrying guns, then you’re going to be uncomfortable. And I’d just rather people not be uncomfortable.” He doesn’t want his customers to openly display their weapons for the same reason that 7-11 won’t allow customers to shop with (perfectly legal) ski masks covering their faces. It makes enough of the people uncomfortable enough of the time. To think about it from another point of view, my guess is that most restaurant owners would kindly ask committed lumbersexuals to remove their engraved hatchets from their belts before entering too. Lots of people carrying around hatchets, even holstered ones, makes it hard to concentrate on a rack of ribs. But beyond whether or not displayed weapons are welcoming or not, Perkins also added one other point regarding how conflicts might get resolved with weapons already out in the open. “If you have a conflict, there’s no room to escalate if you’re already at deadly force.”
Perkins’s voice is one not often heard in the gun debate, but his decision gets far less coverage than Trent Brooks’s (even a recent Texas Monthly story about open carry leads off with the much-discussed discount from Brooks).
Trent Brooks video from KHOU
It’s easy for national media to latch on to the controversial open carry movement in Texas using Trent Brooks as an example of gun rights’s advocates enthusiasm for the law, but for anyone who does a cursory search of Brooks, they’ll find that his stance on the matter is nothing new. He announced his support for open carry customers weeks ago, and J.C. Reid did a story for the Houston Chronicle last year on Brooks’ support for gun rights. Encouraging guns has been Brooks’s business from the start, but it’s tempting to paint him as this week’s zealot. He maintained to KHOU that his is an act of hospitality as well: “We’ve received everyone with open arms.” Let’s not forget that he’s also a shrewd business man. For a few hundred bucks in discounts, Brooks has found a way to get his tiny business’s name into national stories on Grubstreet and Eater (with more sure to come).
While Perkins has a dining room of people to consider at Slow Bone, Brooks has a few picnic tables outside his walk-up barbecue trailer that serves everything in to-go containers. He doesn’t have to consider his position’s effects on the dining experience in quite the same way. But not everyone is coming down on a side. Wesley Jurena, who owns Pappa Charlie’s Barbeque in Houston and also has to consider his dining room full of families, doesn’t agree with either Perkins or Brooks. “If it’s legal in Texas, I have no problem with it,” he told me over the phone while shopping for barbecue supplies. He doesn’t plan to post any new signs or offer discounts, instead preferring to let it ride, if possible. “If it starts to affect our business, then we may need to reconsider our position.” Which is likely how most barbecue joints around the state will react.