AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the community searches for answers about how to keep guns off of East Sixth Street, a gun shop owner says he fears lax firearms regulations at bars in the entertainment district may contribute to the problem.

“Because of COVID-19, you had some bars that were able to change their liquor license from a bar – 51% – to a restaurant,” said Michael Cargill, owner of Central Texas Gun Works. “When you do that, you change your gun status. When you become a restaurant – guns are legal and any sized knife is legal.”

Cargill brought these thoughts forward following the shooting on East Sixth around closing time during the last weekend of SXSW.

According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), a business has to post a 51% sign, pictured below, if 51% of a business’ revenue comes from on-site alcohol consumption. The sign prohibits patrons from carrying handguns onto the property.

TABC 51% sign
This sign is placed outside Texas bars that make at least 51% of revenue from on-site alcohol consumption.

According to a report outlining details of TABC licenses for bars on East Sixth, 11 bars between Interstate 35 and Congress Avenue are required to post the 51% sign. TABC data also shows that 35 bars on that same stretch of Sixth Street applied for Food and Beverage licenses in 2020 that would classify them as restaurants so they could stay open during the pandemic. Most of those permits don’t expire until later this year.

Below is what is legally needed to obtain a Food and Beverage Certificate from TABC.

We asked if this changed the landscape of firearms permissions in the entertainment district, resulting in more businesses allowing firearms inside – as Cargill suggested.

“It doesn’t change the landscape as far as where handguns can be allowed. It changes the requirements for gun owners, what they need to do before they can carry their handgun,” said TABC Public Information Officer Chris Porter. “For the purposes of TABC, there’s not an increase in the number of businesses that can allow or disallow handguns. What it comes down to is what was the permitting requirement by the state previously.”

We walked up and down East Sixth, observing the signs outside of every bar. Some had 51% percent signs displayed even though TABC records indicate they did not have to. Some businesses had voluntary signs displayed that prohibit firearms. Some had no signs.

Voluntary sign prohibiting firearms
If businesses choose to do so, they can post this voluntary sign that prohibits hand guns on site.

We spoke with the owner of a bar with no signs, who said handguns are still not allowed inside. Other downtown business owners said they did not know of any bars that would allow firearms inside.

The executive director of the Texas Metropolitan Police Association says regardless of what bars allow, people will still bring guns downtown because of Texas’ carry laws.

“We’ve seen increased gun violence going on because there’s more people carrying guns now,” said Kevin Lawrence. “If people want to carry guns, they’ll carry guns.”