Screencap/Lex 18 News
A Waffle House near Nicholasville, Kentucky has been heavily criticized for refusing to serve a uniformed member of the Army National Guard, because the soldier was carrying his firearm.
After he entered the Waffle House on Sunday, September 27, National Guardsman Billy Welch sat down, placed his order, and was signaled by a waitress.
“I got up and I walked over to them, asked them how they were doing and stuff, and they said I'd have to take my firearm outside,” Welch told Lex 18 News, an NBC affiliate. “I don't feel comfortable [with someone] taking my firearm away from me. I always keep it with me and they said, ‘it's one of our policies.’”
Welch declined, telling another waitress, “Thank you, but no thank you, ma’am. I’m gonna have to leave.”
Welch’s story later went viral after a witness to the event wrote about the experience on Facebook. “I have a bunch of family members and friends who have been active military, and in the military, and retired, and it hurts my feelings when people disrespect them,” witness Micaela Shaw told the news station. “I just wanted to stand up for him.”
The local Waffle House later released a statement insisting that the staff was simply upholding a longstanding policy. “For many years we have had a ‘No Firearms’ policy in place in our restaurants,” the restaurant said. “We continue to believe this is the best policy for the safety of our customers and associates.”
Welch’s experience follows a number of incidences in which service members have been turned away from restaurants for controversial reasons. Earlier this month, an army veteran was refused service for bringing his service dog into a Chicago restaurant, and days later, two police officers were turned away from a Texas Whataburger after being told, “We don’t serve police.”