The Toby Keith restaurant "no guns" policy non-story

Say, have you heard about the latest huge, outrageous news on the gun rights front? Country music star Toby Keith has a new restaurant in Woodbridge, Virginia where he’s trying to stomp all over the Second Amendment rights of Unites States citizens, and conservative gun owners and bloggers across the land are ready to take to the streets with pitchforks and torches to bring down the singer. Except for one small problem: essentially nothing in the preceding sentence is true.

The brouhaha in question seems to have begun with a fairly innocuous story in the local news.

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – A new restaurant that recently opened in Woodbridge is sparking a Second Amendment controversy, especially online.

The restaurant named for country music star Toby Keith has posted a “No guns permitted” sign on its front door and gun rights supporters are blasting the restrictions on the chain’s Facebook page.

Clearly, linkbait like that – particularly during the slow news cycle between Christmas and New Years – was too much to resist, and liberals were quick to jump all over the story. The Raw Story launched into a breathless account of the erupting turmoil.

Conservatives and gun activists are in high dudgeon over a sign outside country singer Toby Keith’s new Virginia bar and grill that says “No Guns Permitted.”

According to Washington, DC’s WTOP, the sign has provoked an explosion of outrage online. Many gun rights advocates took to Twitter and other social media to denounce Keith as a “gun hating liberal,” a “fake,” and a “Republican In Name Only” or “RINO.”

Mediaite upped the stakes a fair bit with their own brand of excitement.

Toby Keith shocked many of his fans this week with a sign outside his new I Love this Bar and Grill in Virginia that reads “No guns allowed!” Virginia law allows people to carry guns into restaurants, but individual establishments reserve the right to make the call for themselves, and Keith’s is bothering quite a few people.

Sadly for all concerned, there are more holes in this story than the soles of a four dollar pair of shoes after running a marathon. First and foremost, the supposed “outrage” (more on that below) is being directed at Toby Keith. What none of these outlets seemed to have done was check one of the essential facts which the local news station actually did uncover. I’ll highlight it below for those who missed it.

Some comments accuse Keith, who doesn’t own the restaurant, of being anti-gun.

The franchise is named after one of Toby Keith’s bigger hits, I Love This Bar. While their website doesn’t list any specifics, I’m sure they had to pay the country legend a fee to use his name and the name of his tune to market their eateries. Keith is not the owner and isn’t making policy for seating arrangements. I suppose he might be able to pull his name from them if he disagrees strongly enough, but that would depend on the terms of the deal they initially signed.

Second, the sign does not blast out, “No guns allowed!” as Mediaite claimed. It actually is composed of gray block letters on the glass door and reads, “No Guns Permitted.”


As to the vast hordes of conservatives who are in high dudgeon or otherwise “outraged”, this seems to be a product of liberal imagination. The only widely read conservative outlet I saw mentioning the story was a three paragraph piece by AWR Hawkins at Breitbart. And even that one was essentially an accounting of the reported events without editorializing much beyond noting that Keith also wrote a song called Bullets in the Gun, indicating what could be interpreted as support for the rights of gun owners. (It should be noted that Breitbart chose a graphic for their story with some other bar that had a sign saying “No Guns Allowed” which may be where Mediaite picked up that line.)

The liberals drumming up this story instead relied on publishing a short collection of comments left on the restaurant’s Facebook page. And let’s face it… you can go to Grumpy Cat’s Facebook page and find somebody with enough free time on their hands that they decided to leave a comment claiming the feisty feline is an alien. I’m really not seeing an army of angry, conservative Second Amendment supporters ready to lynch Toby Keith at this point.

But since I can’t write anything about gun rights without editorializing a bit myself, let’s pretend for the moment that this story was exactly as billed. This isn’t really a Second Amendment question, since that right is designed to protect us from the government, not places to get wings and cheese sticks during a football game. If the actual owners and management of the restaurant choose to not have patrons in an open carry state bring their guns on the premises I don’t see this as being much different than enforcing a dress code at upscale dining establishments. It will be the invisible hand which determines the joint’s fate, not the government. If enough people are bothered by the policy they won’t eat there and the business will fail as diners vote with their feet and their wallets. Granted, the policy will probably make the place a much tastier target for any potential thieves in the greater Woodbridge area, but nobody is forcing the rest of us to eat there, so c’est la vie.

In the end, I highly doubt that Toby Keith has suddenly changed stripes and joined the Deplorable Nanny State Mayor’s anti-gun group or signed up for the Socialist Party. Either way, we should probably hear from him before we begin fitting him for a tar and feathers tuxedo. To close, here’s the video of the song which originally inspired the name of the restaurant. It’s a fun little tune in case you’ve never heard it.