But the 25 or so men and women who filled in half the restaurant as Thursday began also came to celebrate their newfound gun rights.
When the clock struck 12, Oklahoma became the 14th state to allow people with a permit to carry their handguns in public.
“It feels like freedom to us; it feels very liberating,” said Bryan Hull, who runs a towing service in downtown Oklahoma City and co-founded the Oklahoma Open Carry Association.
With pistols in their holsters, sipping sodas and seemingly split over whether lunch or breakfast was appropriate for the time of night, the conversation was strictly constitutional rights and self-defense at first. Gradually, the men forgot their guns and turned to catching up.
Once open carry settles in, the public will forget about the guns as well, say its advocates. After all, most these guys have already been carrying concealed for years.
“I think a right not exercised is a right lost, and so open carry is more symbolic to me,” said Jon Muckleroy, an aircraft mechanic from Oklahoma City who dined on eggs, sausage and biscuits and gravy with a Smith & Wesson M&P45 in his holster.
Joe Wood of Norman, also an aircraft mechanic but at Tinker Air Force Base, carried a Taurus PT145 and ate a hamburger.
“I just feel more secure and safe,” he said.
Open carry was signed into law last May by Gov. Mary Fallin and was one of several new laws that went into effect at midnight Thursday.
Restrictions remain in place at government buildings, bars and professional sporting events, among others, but in general the law is meant to be more permissive than restrictive. Businesses and private property owners can continue prohibit firearms, carried openly or concealed, but citizens maintain the right to store them in their vehicles on private and government property.
More than 141,000 active concealed carry permits in Oklahoma are now simply “carry permits.”
Hull said residents can expect to see guns on sidewalks, in grocery stores, and at restaurants like Beverly’s — at least initially.
“We started planning for today the day after the governor signed the legislation,” he said.
But opponents say they fear more guns will lead to more violence. Though the law requires a background check against a federal database before a carry permit is approved, Oklahoma is one of 15 states that had submitted three or less mental health records as of 2011.
“It can be very unnerving,” said Darla Koone of Oklahoma City, who sat several booths down from the open carriers at Beverly’s on Thursday. “The law doesn’t really keep guns out of the hands of people with problems.”
Across the table, her friend Sarah Musick, also of Oklahoma City, disagreed.
“As long as checks are in place and the system’s actually working, and as long as they’re using them appropriately, I do feel safer,” Musick said.
Some business owners in Oklahoma have said they will bar their customers from carrying guns openly inside, but others have said they don’t have a problem with it.
Others — like Bruce Harroz, owner of Crest Foods — said they will make a decision after they see how their customers respond to visible guns inside.
Harroz said Crest backed off its no-guns policy several months ago after his voice mail and email were inundated with angry messages from gun rights advocates who threatened to boycott. Now he’s hearing from anti-gun shoppers, particularly women with small children who want to shop without worry of violence.
“We’re looking toward no weapons allowed, but we haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet,” Harroz said. “You can’t please everybody any way you go, and we’ve got both kinds of customers shopping with us.”
Even the owner of Beverly’s said she is not quite sure how she feels about guns in the restaurant.
Renee Masoudy said Hull and other organizers of Thursday’s open carry event are regular customers at Beverly’s. But a stranger with a handgun might not settle so easy with her cooks and wait staff.
“What it is that scares me is Fridays, Saturdays, the bar crowd — people come sometimes drunk,” Masoudy said. “We’ve been through a lot of things, and I don’t know if for the sake of my employees’ safety that I want to allow it.”
Law enforcement officials in Oklahoma have also expressed concern over the law, but said they are already working to train officers and 911 dispatchers to adjust to it.