Controversy erupted this week after a Waffle House in Kentucky refused to serve an armed National Guardsman — but now the restaurant's owner says there's more to the story than was previously reported.
Soldier Billy Welch says sometime after he placed his breakfast order on Sunday morning, his waitress noticed the gun holstered at his side and told him he'd have to leave his gun in his car or leave the restaurant. This didn't sit too well with a fellow customer, who took his complaint to Facebook and subsequently incited a social media firestorm, with Facebook users and Yelp reviewers calling the staff "stupid" and "bigoted" and calling for a Waffle House boycott.
The owner of the Waffle House franchise, Ray Daniels, issued a statement today via Facebook to explain his situation. The statement appears to have since been taken down, but per local news station Lex 18, it read as follows:
Unfortunately, we have been besieged with a misrepresentation of the facts regarding the incident with the National Guardsman, Mr. Welch, at one of LexiDan Foods Waffle House establishments. The facts are simple. We do have a policy posted on our Waffle House franchise buildings stating our policy in permitting firearms in our buildings. We normally are very loose on how we enforce that policy in terms of the military.
However, on this particular incident, two facts have not been reported accurately that facilitated the situation with Mr. Welch. First, he was an active participant in a fight on the premises several weeks prior to September 27th. He was restrained and taken off the premises by off-duty police officers that were eating in the restaurant at the time. The second item not reported accurately was the time the most recent incident occurred, 2AM. We have associates who have to make snap decisions on our third shifts to provide for their own safety and the safety of our customers. Our associates decided because of Mr. Welch's recent altercation, which they witnessed, it was in their best interest at 2 AM to ask Mr. Welch to leave his firearm in his vehicle. Mr. Welch decided to leave. We still tried to garner his business at that point. I am supportive of my team’s decision. I was not there and will not judge their decision making after the fact.
If this incident occurred at 10am in the morning and Mr. Welch had not been involved in a previous fight I'm sure the outcome would have been different. I feel Lex 18 did not do due diligence in their reporting. We are highly supportive of all our military branches and especially supportive of our veterans. I hope this provides some clarification on the matter. Thank you for taking the time to read this and understanding that in any business, judgment decisions have to be made to provide for the safety of our associates and customers.
While Waffle House does have a company-wide policy banning guns, law enforcement is excepted from the rule. However, the chain's corporate communications department told Eater yesterday that as a franchise-owned outlet, the location in question may enforce slightly different rules. The restaurant could not be reached for further comment today.
Carrying guns in restaurants has been a hot button issue as of late. Last year an activist group called Open Carry Texas terrified a group of Jack in the Box employees when they approached the restaurant carrying rifles on their way to a demonstration. Restaurants like Chipotle and Panera subsequently issued official statements asking patrons to leave their firearms outside.
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