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Belleville Denny's at odds with police

This Denny's restaurant at 1130 South Illinois Street in Belleville, got crosswise with city officers on Jan. 1, 2013, after a manager told several detectives they couldn't eat there with with their firearms, even though they were on duty. Photo by Amanda St. Amand of the Post-Dispatch

2013-01-03T00:10:00Z2013-01-03T05:49:59ZBelleville cops booted from Denny's for toting gunsby Joe Holleman [email protected]

BELLEVILLE • Police here have less than a sunny-side-up view of a local Denny’s.
The Belleville police chief banned his officers from the eatery while on duty after several detectives were told they couldn’t carry their guns in the restaurant, but Denny’s says the incident stemmed from a misunderstanding.
The incident began about 10 a.m. Tuesday when five Belleville detectives went into the Denny’s at 1130 South Illinois Street, ordered food and began to eat. The detectives had badges on their belts or on chains around their necks, but they weren’t in uniform.
Belleville Capt. Donald Sax said restaurant manager David Rice then approached and told one of the detectives that a diner had complained about seeing one of the detectives carrying a gun.
Even though the detective told Rice all at the table were police officers, Rice insisted the detectives take their guns back out to their cars, Sax said.
According to Sax, Rice then told the officers that it is company policy to allow only uniformed officers to carry their guns into a restaurant and that a sign on the door stated that policy.
The officers all got up to leave, refusing to pay for their meal. As they were leaving, Sax said a Denny’s general manager, Michael Van, approached the group. He told them Rice was wrong and it was fine for them to stay and to keep their guns.
The detectives, whom Sax described as “embarrassed” by the incident, decided to leave anyway. Sax said the detectives made a point to check the door on their way out.
“There was no sign on the door (regarding firearms),” Sax said. “They all looked for it.”
Belleville Police Chief William Clay later issued an order to his troops, banning them from eating at that Denny’s when they are on duty or when they’re off duty and still in uniform. Off-duty and out of uniform, officers can eat where they want.
Belleville police also issued a press release, naming the managers and pinning the incident on “political stupidness.”
“This was an insult, a slap in the face to those detectives and to all of the men and women who proudly wear the uniform or badge and serve in law enforcement,” Clay said in the press release.
Of course, officers will still show up if Denny’s calls for some kind of emergency, police said.
The Denny’s managers, Rice and Van, were not available for comment. Corporate spokesperson Liz DiTrapano called the situation “a misunderstanding” and said there is no ban on armed officers.
“Obviously, all law enforcement officers are permitted to carry their firearms in our restaurants,” she said.
Belleville police said they would be following up with Denny’s management about the restaurant’s policies.
At the Belleville restaurant on Wednesday, diners’ views on the incident varied.
John Carrigan, 72, of rural Washington County, Ill., said he understood the concern some diners at Denny’s might have had. “I’d have been scared to see a woman walk in with a gun nowadays with all the shootings,” he said.
But Mike Wieland, 51, of Bluford, Ill., sided with the officers. “The police should be able to carry their weapons everywhere they go,” Wieland said.
Margaret Gillerman of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
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Not really surprised.
Several strange things have happened at Denny's restaurants.
Very disgusted with this, glad I am not around there.... when they need Law Enforcement, they will be the first to call that officer that has a gun! Pretty pathetic IMO..
That's funny as the one a few blocks from my home has had private citizens walk in open carry w/o a word! Ya gotta love ALASKA!!

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (KSDK) - The manager of a Denny's that asked a group of detectives to leave the restaurant because one of their weapons was making a customer uncomfortable is offering free food to police officers.
Police say the five on-duty detectives with visible badges were eating at the restaurant on South Illinois Street Tuesday when the manager asked one of the detectives to either put her gun in the car or leave.
The detectives chose to leave.
Belleville Police Chief Bill Clay then told his officers not to go to Denny's unless they are responding to an emergency.
Denny's released a statement saying they do not permit firearms inside the restaurant but then determined the weapon belonged to a plain-clothed officer. They do allow law enforcement officials to carry their weapons inside the restaurant.
The manager of that restaurant has now decided to offer free meals to police officers on Friday.
The free meals will be offered from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. at 1130 South Illinois Street.
Capt. Donald Sax with the Belleville Police Department says on Thursday Van Catchings, Director of Company Operations for Denny's, met with members of the police Department to talk about the situation.

He says Catchings apologized for the actions taken by the restaurant and that the actions were inconsistent with Denny's forporate policy.

Chief Clay then lifted the ban on officers taking meal or coffee breaks at the restaurant and released the following statement:
"I am a fan of 'Social Media'; I use it and rely upon it often. This same technology sometimes puts an issue in the public domain that should be resolved in private face to face meetings. Denny's on South Illinois is a Belleville business. They pay sales tax and provide employment for many Belleville residents. I have patronized Denny's in the past and will continue to do so in the future. I harbor no grudges! This was an unfortunate incident by an individual employee; it has been made right."
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