On 23 November 2015, a Facebook user published a Facebook status update reporting that the restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings banned guns on their premises and refused service to police officers. Within a week, the claim had been shared tens of thousands of times:
The rumor prompted a flood of angry posts to the Facebook page of Buffalo Wild Wings, accusing the chain of ejecting armed police officers (despite any specific information suggesting the rumor was credible):
Is this true? Did you actually kick out law enforcement officers that were on duty? Seriously the only people that is going to stop is the honest law abiding citizens. So that leaves your establishment full of gun toting thugs, with the law abiding citizens unable to defend themselves. WING STOP here I come.
Although the level of outrage might have suggested otherwise, Buffalo Wild Wings didn’t recently ban guns from their restaurants. Window decals announcing the policy (images of which are rife online), and forum posts dating back to at least 2004 detail the existence of a gun ban at some Buffalo Wild Wings locations.
It should be noted that the chain’s policy is not universal. During an earlier wave of anger over Buffalo Wild Wings’ gun policy in January 2013, the chain released a statement that incidentally revealed the ban applied primarily to company-owned locations (not franchised restaurants):
Buffalo Wild Wings respects the right of individuals to carry firearms. One of our top priorities is the comfort, safety and enjoyment of our Guests and we have elected to exercise our right to prohibit the carrying of firearms in our company-owned restaurants. We regret any inconvenience this may cause but believe that this long-standing position is in the best interest of our Guests and our Team Members. This position may vary in independently owned franchised locations.
At the time that statement was released, KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh checked to see whether local Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants displayed the sign. Most did not:
KDKA-TV checked with a few of the restaurants here in the Pittsburgh area, most of them currently do not have the sign up, but were going to look into the policy.
We were unable to find any incidents involving police officers, guns, and Buffalo Wild Wings in November 2015 that might have prompted the original post or subsequent sudden outpouring of anger. But in March 2013 (two and a half years prior to the November 2015 controversy), a now-deleted post on Patch Manasseh appeared to have kicked off the original rumor. A 7 May 2013 post on that site reproduced the claim, which looked to have originated with a “concerned citizen”:
MANASSAS, VA — Eight police officers were refused service at Buffalo Wild Wings on Wednesday, apparently because they had their weapons displayed.
The Prince William County Police officers were on duty, but were in plain clothes, said Daryl LaClair, a Prince William County resident who wrote a letter to the restaurant chain’s headquarters and started a public awareness campaign regarding the incident.
The group walked into the Buffalo Wild Wings located near Wellington Road and Market Street, but were refused service by an employee who said they had to secure the guns before they would be served.
The subsequent deletion of the original post made determining its original claims difficult. A copied portion of the article indicated that it was originally posted on or around 27 March 2013, more than a month before the May 2013 followup. In the later Patch piece, the site reported that general manager of the Manassas Buffalo Wild Wings Scott Lupton immediately clarified that police were not subject to the gun policy. Moreover, Lupton attempted to locate the police officers described by LaClair to Patch, but was unable to:
Scott Lupton, the general manager of the Manassas Buffalo Wild Wings location, sent an email to LaClair, apologizing for any confusion caused by the incident, which he calls a “huge misunderstanding”… Lupton said he wasn’t there, but should have been notified immediately. He learned of the incident after returning to work.
“There is no reason why those officers should have been asked to leave … police officers are always welcome in my establishment and even though we do have a no gun policy, as a company that excludes off duty police officer,” Lupton wrote. “As a company we are community oriented. We appreciate everything that police officers do for us.”
[H]e tried to reach out to the officers to apologize, but had not been successful. Lupton said he would reach out to the police department and personally apologize … Lupton said he went down to the Prince William County Police Department with an apology letter, but wasn’t able to personally contact the police officers who visited his store.
A 28 March 2013 post on FoxNews.com (published after the first Patch article and before the second) provided a date for the incident and included an update from Lupton in which he stated no one was asked to leave:
The plainclothes Prince William County police officers stopped in at the Manassas restaurant on March 20, presumably to dig in to the popular chain’s specialty, but never got the chance. An unidentified server told them they would have to put their service guns out of sight before being served. Scott Lupton, general manager of the store, said he heard about the incident from Daryl LaClair, a local man who contacted restaurant representatives afterward. Lupton denied reports that the county’s Finest were asked to leave.
“She went to a manager,” Lupton told FoxNews.com. “But nobody was asked to leave. It was a misunderstanding and we tried to apologize for it. I’ll keep apologizing for it as much as I can.”
That article included comment from Buffalo Wild Wings’ corporate offices, clarifying that armed officers were universally welcomed:
A spokeswoman for the Minneapolis-based Buffalo Wild Wings told FoxNews.com law enforcement officers are “always welcome” in its 840 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.
“It is the company’s practice to allow credentialed officers to carry guns,” spokeswoman Angie Andresen told FoxNews.com. “We’re working with team members to make sure that everyone knows what the protocol is. They have apologized.”
In April 2013 the Manassas location donated ten percent of a day’s profits to Law Enforcement United in response to the controversy.
A February 2018 rehashing of this item (in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting) included a digitally manipulated image of a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant window in Morristown, Tennesee:
That location bears no such wording its window: