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Sonic, Chili's ask customers to keep guns out of restaurants

By Victoria Cavaliere

(Reuters) - Two national chain restaurants have asked that customers refrain from bringing firearms into their establishments, saying the weapons can create an uncomfortable atmosphere for other diners.

Sonic Drive-In and Chili's Grill & Bar both issued statements Friday requesting that customers keep their guns out of their restaurants even if they have an open carry permit.

The request, which stops short of an outright ban, came after members of the gun-rights group Open Carry Texas walked into Texas-area outlets of Sonic and Chili's carrying assault rifles.

Dallas-based Brinker International Inc, which owns the Chili's chain, said in a statement it was dedicated to providing "a safe environment for our guests and team members."

"We recognize that the open carry of firearms creates an uncomfortable atmosphere and is not permitted under many local liquor laws,” spokeswoman Ashley Johnson said.

Sonic, owned by Sonic Corp, also issued a statement asking that customers "refrain from bringing guns onto our patios or into our outdoor dining areas."

The two companies joined a growing number of national eateries, including Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc, and Jack in the Box Inc, that have asked diners to keep their firearms at home.

Chili's and Sonic had also come under pressure from gun control groups to issue a no-firearm policy after video surfaced of Open Carry Texas members descending on several San Antonio locations while carrying weapons.

The members were asked to leave by management.

Open Carry Texas said on its Facebook page it would "cease taking long guns into corporate businesses unless invited."

Gun control groups applauded the move by Brinker International and Sonic.

"You can support the Second Amendment while taking reasonable measures to ensure that Americans are safe and secure in the places we take our children," Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in a statement.

The no-gun policy follows a mass shooting incident at the University of California, Santa Barbara on May 23 that has renewed debate over gun control laws.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere)

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