(WBIR-Maryville) Gun control is a hot topic across the country, and one East Tennessee restaurant owner is making her opinion very clear by posting a 'Guns are Welcome' sign on the front door of her family-friendly establishment.
"As the owner, I wanted to stand my ground. I have that constitutional right. If you like it, that's great, if you don't, I'm sorry for you. I can't change who I am," said Sharma Floyd, with Shiloh Brew and Chew.
Floyd said she posted the signs about a month ago after reading a story out of North Carolina.
"They had put up a sign that said 'No Weapons Allowed' and they were robbed at gunpoint two days later. The convenience store manager was shot," said Floyd. "And that got me thinking. I lost a whole group of motorcyclists because they thought I didn't allow weapons. But I believe it's ok to carry as long as you have a permit."
The restaurant does not sell liquor, and Floyd said she asks anyone who orders a beer if they are carrying.
"If they say 'Yes, I have an ankle strap on', I say 'Sorry, then you can't drink,'" said Floyd. "We sell very, very little beer here, but we do offer it. I don't have a liquor license. I won't get a liquor license."
Floyd said Shiloh Brew and Chew is often confused as a bar or tobacco store instead of a Southern style restaurant.
"Brew is for coffee, chew is for food. So in my mind, my concept all went together. But after I made a $3,000 sign and paid for it, I realized that was not a good marketing idea," laughed Floyd. "But the 'Guns are Welcome' signs have helped boost business."
She said while one man said he would not come back to her establishment, more than 20 new customers have come through her doors since she posted the signs on three doors.
"I can honestly say I've gotten way more support than the one person who really gave me a lot of grief over it," said Floyd.
Friday, all of the customers in Shiloh Brew and Chew, many who are considered regulars, voiced support.
"Everyone needs to take a stand for what they believe Is right.," said Ralph Tucker. "Somebody saying guns are welcome instead of somebody crying about how many people are killed with guns. And it's not guns that kill people, it's people that kill people."
At a nearby table, a group from Cleveland, Ohio, had their take on the signs.
"We laughed, to be honest. It is the perfect expectation of coming to the South. It doesn't bother me, I grew up around guns. But I probably wouldn't go into a restaurant in Cleveland that had that on the door, but I have no problem coming into a restaurant down here that has that on the door."
Floyd said she does not own a gun or have a carry permit, but said her customers have a constitutional right to bear arms.
"I have had so many customers take pictures of the sign, ask to meet me in person, and thank me," said Floyd. "There have been as many as eight people in here at one time who I know for a fact had guns. And no one would have known it except I know them personally. They're law abiding, god fearing, Christian people. And that's what I stand on. That's what my restaurant is based on. "