Lack of signs prohibiting guns draws protesters to Portillo's opening

  • Protesters attend the grand opening of the new Portillo's restaurant in Deerfield as part of the "Shop Safer" campaign to inform customers about businesses that don't actively promote banning guns on their premises.

      Protesters attend the grand opening of the new Portillo's restaurant in Deerfield as part of the "Shop Safer" campaign to inform customers about businesses that don't actively promote banning guns on their premises. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • About two dozen protesters attend Tuesday's opening of a Portillo's restaurant in Deerfield as part of the "Shop Safer" campaign to inform customers about businesses that don't actively promote banning guns on their premises.

      About two dozen protesters attend Tuesday's opening of a Portillo's restaurant in Deerfield as part of the "Shop Safer" campaign to inform customers about businesses that don't actively promote banning guns on their premises. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Portillo's founder Dick Portillo, center, talks to Richard Hargreaves of Addison, left, and Norman Camp of West Chicago, who are members of the Illinois State Rifle Association, at Tuesday's restaurant grand opening in Deerfield.

      Portillo's founder Dick Portillo, center, talks to Richard Hargreaves of Addison, left, and Norman Camp of West Chicago, who are members of the Illinois State Rifle Association, at Tuesday's restaurant grand opening in Deerfield. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Restaurant employees hand out food orders during the Tuesday grand opening of the new Portillo's restaurant in Deerfield. Protesters were outside as part of the "Shop Safer" campaign to inform customers about businesses that don't actively promote banning guns on their premises.

      Restaurant employees hand out food orders during the Tuesday grand opening of the new Portillo's restaurant in Deerfield. Protesters were outside as part of the "Shop Safer" campaign to inform customers about businesses that don't actively promote banning guns on their premises. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
 

Besides the signature beef sandwiches and hot dogs, Tuesday's grand opening of Portillo's newest restaurant in Deerfield came with a side of old-fashioned protest.

About two dozen members of a group called "Peaceful Communities" capitalized on the chain's huge popularity to protest restaurants and other businesses that allow concealed weapons.

Carrying signs including "Buns not Guns" and "Signs Save Lives," the peaceful protesters stood near the parking lot entrance off Lake-Cook Road. A smaller counterpoint group that had been alerted by the Illinois State Rifle Association gathered near the restaurant entrance to offer an alternative view.

Except in Chicago, where it is required by liquor laws, Portillo's locations do not post a no-guns sticker on the window.

"Hopefully, the management of Portillo's will realize we don't think you need a gun to get a roast beef sandwich," said Lee Goodman, a Northbrook resident and organizer of the protest. It was one in a series known as the "Shop Safer" campaign to educate consumers about businesses that ban concealed weapons.

"I don't think I'm safer with people packing loaded guns," added Ann Hammond of Wilmette.

Lake Zurich resident John Trumbull said the no-guns signs are "misguided concept" as it is better to have patrons with concealed weapons in a business if a dangerous situation arises.

"A business owner takes on a real liability by prohibiting their customers from exercising their constitutional right," he said. "It's a magnet for mayhem. People like us, we see a no-gun sign and we say, `We'll take our business somewhere else.'"

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Founder Dick Portillo, who started the business in 1963, and CEO Keith Kinsey said the policy won't change. Since selling the chain in 2014 to Berkshire Partners, Portillo continues to help guide the company while Kinsey has assumed the day-to-day operating duties.

"I respect their opinion but I don't think signs will make a difference," Portillo said. "Signs, I do not believe, will make the bad guys not use guns. We have to learn to work together and respect each other."

Kinsey said Portillo's abides by all local firearm laws in states where it operates. Unless limited by local ordinance, anyone in compliance with the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act is allowed in the restaurants with a gun.

"We definitely respect both sides but we're going to follow the law," he said.

Goodman disagreed.

"About 200,000 people in Illinois have these permits and they very much care about the signs," he said. "To the extent it won't stop the maniac or armed robber, they're right, but that's not what the signs are for."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Patrons didn't appear to be swayed either way.

"I wasn't looking for any of the signs except the Portillo's sign," said Andy Hanacek, a Chicago resident who works nearby and showed up for lunch with two co-workers.

"It doesn't bother me one way or the other," said Ivan Rioja-Scott. "We're here to eat. That's all we care about."

@dhmickzawislak

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