Idaho News

‘It wasn’t confrontational’: After uproar, Boise restaurateur might ban open carry of guns

Bacon did brisk business this week despite a lawmaker’s call for a boycott.
Bacon did brisk business this week despite a lawmaker’s call for a boycott. Photo by Katy Moeller

Chef John Berryhill was surprised that a brief interaction he had with a small group of restaurant patrons about their guns on Feb. 21 resulted in a social media firestorm — and he said he appreciates all the support he’s received over the past week from customers.

“The whole social media thing is just huge,” he said Friday night. “There were thousands and thousands and thousands of comments from Twitter to Instagram to Facebook.”

Business has been brisk as usual at Bacon, despite a state lawmaker’s call for a boycott last weekend, Berryhill said. He’s said he’s not anti-gun, but he’s considering putting up a sign to let customers know that he does not want open carry in his restaurant.

“People have been carrying concealed weapons here for a long time, and it doesn’t bother us because you don’t know,” he said, noting that several of his friends have recently told him they conceal carry.

“We don’t just deliver food, we deliver an experience,” he said.

Boise restaurateur John Berryhill Katherine Jones Idaho Statesman file

Last Saturday, Idaho Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, posted a public message on Facebook that Berryhill’s Downtown Boise restaurant is “not gun friendly.”

“The owner let us buy our food before he become irate with us. I was with patriots who were open carrying. I then took off my jacket to sit down, exposing mine,” Christensen wrote. “If the owner had asked us to leave, before we bought food, that would have been fine. That is his right. However, he waited for all of 5 of us to buy food. He told one of our guys he was ‘over the top’ because he was wearing a shoulder holster. He told us the customers were scared.”

Christensen said Berryhill closed some curtains so “others wouldn’t see us and become frightened.” The Facebook post was shared 1,600 times and had almost as many comments on it.

“Another communist in our midst, starve him out, pass the word!!!” was the first comment posted on Christensen’s page.

A few days later, Bacon’s Facebook page featured a photo of a customer wearing a “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” T-shirt.

On Friday, Berryhill gave the Statesman his account of what happened Feb. 21.

He said he was working in the back office that day and took a break to walk through the restaurant. He noticed a group of five men in black who were carrying their guns. At first he thought they were with some sort of security detail. One of the men had on a vest with two pistols in it, he said.

“It had the appearance of, like, Rambo,” he said of the man with the vest. “I’m not a person who has ever seen that, other than in the movies.”

He said he talked to them about their guns.

“It wasn’t confrontational at all,” Berryhill said. “They gave me their views of what they do, and I gave them mine. I wasn’t talking to [Christensen] because he never talked. He was just sitting there with a scowl.”

There are two curtains in the back room where the group sat, and Berryhill said he told the men he was going to close one of the curtains.

Bacon has a room with curtains in the back,near where customers place their orders. Owner John Berryhill said he closed one set of curtains after talking with a group of men who were openly carrying their guns on Feb. 21.

“If I’d really wanted to close them off, I’d close both curtains,” he said. “I told the manager, ‘Take care of those guys, they’re nice.’ ”

A couple of days later, a manager alerted Berryhill to the Facebook post by Christensen. He said the whole brouhaha has caused him to think about adopting a policy prohibiting open carry in the restaurant.

“I never thought about any of this until this stuff happened,” he said. “I’m a Libra, it takes me awhile to make a decision. I don’t want to make the wrong sign, to discount people who feel safer carrying a gun or because they’re carrying because it’s their Second Amendment right, and who am I to say they can’t do that.”

He said he’s all about “agreeing to disagree.”

“I’m a preacher’s kid, I have a theology degree and I’m married to an atheist,” he said. “Our son is going to Whitworth to get a master’s in theology. We all figure out our different paths. We can in our diversity breathe openly.”

Berryhill said he bears no ill will toward Christensen. In fact, he said he would welcome all the men in that group back for some bacon.

Katy Moeller has worked at The Idaho Statesman for 13 years. She’s a generalist, an investigative reporter and a feature writer who has been on the breaking news team for a decade. She was Idaho Press Club’s 2016 Print Reporter of the Year.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.