NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Starting Thursday, the armed security guard at Panera Bread Co. across from Vanderbilt University will no longer be carrying a firearm.
According to the manager at the 21st Avenue location, the decision comes after multiple patrons complained to corporate that the armed security agent was violating the company’s own gun policy and making them uncomfortable.
One of those who complained was Lillian Hallstrand, a long-time customer of the Panera on 21st.
The Director of Stewardship and Vocational Planning at Vanderbilt’s divinity school told news 2 coming to the restaurant in recent months has been unsettling since the guards began to carry firearms.
“It was definitely alarming,” Hallstrand explained. “Typically when I see people around with guns, I assume there is some sort of law enforcement happenings taking place. I was reluctant to go in till I knew that there was nothing going on.”
Management told News 2 the restaurant contracts with a security company who employs the guards. The company mandates what the guards wear and what items, like firearms, they carry on their person.
According to the Panera manager, the guards’ main job is to make sure that Panera customers park in the parking lot. Violators will be towed.
Hallstrand said she is not anti-guns.
“I appreciate Second Amendment rights,” she added.
But she does question why an armed guard is working in the parking lot of a company that has pledged to be a gun-free zone.
A few months ago, Panera’s CEO put out the following statement asking patrons to keep guns away:
“Panera respects the rights of gun owners, but asks our customers to help preserve the environment we are working to create for our guests and associates.”
After multiple calls to corporate, the local manager said the guard will come to work Thursday without a firearm.
Hallstrand said she is pleased.
“I feel wonderful about that it makes all the people who are concerned about this it makes it a more inviting place to come and dine,” she told News 2.
The manager said the company is listening to its clients and wants to be a good member of the community it serves.