PORT ALLEN — Business has been booming at Bergeron’s Restaurant since owner Kevin Cox came up with an emphatic declaration of his support for the Second Amendment: offering any gun-toting customers a reduced price on their meals.
Cox said Tuesday he’s seen a 15 percent spike in his Port Allen business after news spread that he was handing out 10 percent discounts to people with an appetite for Southern-inspired home-cooking walking into his restaurant with firearms at the ready.
“Today will be the busiest Tuesday I’ve ever had; and Saturday was the day I felt the real impact,” Cox said during the lunch rush. “It has just been crazy good. And most of them don’t even carry guns. They’re just happy I support the Second Amendment and they’re supporting the policy.”
His gambit went viral online after websites like the Huffington Post and New York Daily News picked up local television reports about the discount. As of Tuesday, Cox’s phone has been ringing off the hook from various media outlets and supporters from across the country.
“?‘Somebody needs to stand up and say something’ — that’s what I’m hearing from folks. It feels great,” he said.
Cox, who wouldn’t say if he owns a gun, said the new policy — which went into effect two weeks ago — was initially born of his desire to offer a special discount to law enforcement officers, something many businesses already do. But watching campaigns for stiffer gun control laws heat up following high-profile mass shootings, Cox said he was reminded how secure he felt whenever his gun-toting friends or family members visited the restaurant. So, he ended up expanding the idea.
The policy is simple: To get the discount a customer can walk in with a gun visibly on display in a holster, or can simply show the weapon to the cashier while ordering.
Louisiana is one of 31 states where residents are allowed to openly carry firearms without a permit as long as the person is at least 18 years old and legally able to possess a firearm under state and federal law. While state law prohibits guns in some places, like schools or bars, the state Legislature has been a vociferous supporter of gun rights. For example, lawmakers passed a law in 2010 that allows people with concealed carry permits to bring handguns to church and other places of worship, although many churches ban the practice.
Considering the broad support for gun ownership in Louisiana, few businesses in the Baton Rouge area would be considered as gun-friendly as Bergeron’s.
On the national stage in recent years, several chains — from Jack in the Box to Starbucks to Chipotle — have either banned or asked customers not to bring firearms into their establishments.
This has often been prompted by “open carry” activists who stage events at local outlets armed with rifles or other long guns.
Target followed suit in June after a group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America gathered nearly 400,000 signatures on a petition following demonstrations by gun advocates who flooded into stores with loaded assault weapons.
In a recent news release applauding Target’s decision, MDA Founder Shannon Watts said, “Moms everywhere were horrified to see images of people carrying loaded assault rifles down the same aisles where we shop for diapers and toys. … You can respect the Second Amendment and the safety of customers at the same time.”
But Baton Rouge couple Doug Brown and Mary Smith disagree, saying Bergeron’s new discount policy convinced them on Tuesday it was time to patronize a restaurant they had only passed by during their commutes on the west side of the Mississippi River.
With his .45 caliber gun resting in the holster strapped to his belt loop, Brown said, “I’m a gun advocate. If there’s a place that doesn’t allow guns, I’m not going to patronize that business.”
Retiree Dee Ross, also from Baton Rouge, has gone to Bergeron’s three times since the discount policy began.
Ross said Cox’s welcoming stance toward gun owners is something he’s only seen before in rural Mississippi businesses — never so close to home.
“I don’t know of any other place on either side of the river that encourages this, and I’m certainly not going to just walk into a place with my gun to find out,” Ross said.
Cox said he wondered whether other business owners might follow in his footsteps, especially given his success.
“Who knew this would be such a great marketing plan?” he quipped.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter @tjonesreporter.