- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

OGDEN, Utah (AP) - It’s either the safest restaurant in town or the most dangerous. It all depends on how you view the Second Amendment.

Sea Bears Ogden Fish House, a downtown restaurant on Washington Boulevard, is quickly becoming known for three things: the food, the servers clad in Scottish kilts and the sidearms those servers openly carry while they work.

Tony and Monika Siebers, of North Salt Lake, are owners of Sea Bears. They’re also staunch supporters of the right to bear arms. As such, servers at the restaurant - which, thus far, have primarily been immediate family members - are invited to open-carry the firearm of their choice.

“We support the Second Amendment,” Tony said.

The 46-year-old says they’ve been open-carrying at the restaurant for almost a year now. He calls it a safety issue.

“It’s a downtown business dealing with money, we’re closing down at night, my wife has to get to her car out back,” Tony said. “So we just said, ‘Let’s get our concealed-carry permits.’”

After going through a concealed-carry class and firearms training, and while waiting to receive their conceal permits, Monika decided to start open-carrying at the restaurant.

Tony admits that, in the beginning, he feared how customers might react.

“I was nervous - well, not nervous, but I worried - when my wife first started doing open-carry,” he said. “I thought, ‘Will people be offended and not want to come in?’”

Monika, 45, acknowledges the risk.

“Obviously, you’re taking a pretty bold stance,” she said. “The last thing we want to come across as is arrogant or flippant. And we don’t want to scare people.”

When Monika first started wearing her Smith & Wesson M&P; Shield 9mm on her hip, the Siebers got a lot of feedback.

“Almost all positive,” Tony said. “Once in a while, somebody is uncomfortable with it, but not very often. I can count two people who had a negative reaction.”

Customers are welcome to carry firearms in their restaurant, too.

“As long as it stays in its holster, it’s fine,” Tony said. “We’ve never had a problem.”

Tony said they don’t often see open-carry customers in the restaurant, but he believes many of them are armed.

“Especially here in Utah, everywhere you go, there’s one or more person carrying,” he said. “You just don’t know, because they’re concealed. I’d say with about half of our customers, at least one person in the group probably carries.”

Tony’s weapon of choice is either an EAA revolver or the SCCY 9mm. The couple’s 22-year-old twin sons also work at the restaurant, and each carries a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum - Collin prefers one with a longer barrel while Chase goes for the shorter barrel. Although Austin, the 19-year-old son, also works at the restaurant, he doesn’t carry a weapon yet. Nor does daughter Toli, who at 14, helps out at the restaurant occasionally “when she needs money,” Tony said.

Sea Bears - christened with the nickname Tony and Monika had for their children when they were young - first opened three years ago in Magna.

“We started with nothing, really,” Monika recalled. “With the money we made selling fish one day, we bought fish the next day.”

Two years ago, they moved the restaurant to its current location in Ogden. It’s been a lot of trial and error ever since.

“We’re entrepreneurs first and restaurateurs second,” Monika said. “We’ve had to learn what people want.”

For example, the Siebers were originally looking at more of a fast-food model - “keep it cheap, try to pump out a lot of food,” Tony explained. But the problem was parking is scarce on Washington Boulevard, so it’s difficult to attract the needed number of customers.

“We had to change our whole model to a full-service restaurant,” Tony said. “And that’s where we started finding success.”

Monika said 98 percent of the menu is her own recipes, made from scratch. The restaurant is gaining fame for its fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and hamburgers.

And Sea Bears is getting busy enough that the Siebers are beginning to hire employees from outside of the immediate family.

“Working 12- to 15-hour days, after a year and a half, it gets old,” Monika said.

Jason Holbrook, of Ogden, frequents Sea Bears two or three times a week. He has no problem with the fact his servers are often armed.

“Utah is a right-to-bear-arms, right-to-defend state,” he said. “Good for them.”

However, he also pointed out that it’s not the Second Amendment that brings him to the restaurant.

“It’s excellent food,” he said.

Overall, Tony and Monika Siebers think their open-carry firearms policy has helped, not hurt, business.

“People tell us it’s just one more reason to like it here,” Monika said. “They say, ‘We love the food, we love the kilts and we love the open carry.’”

___

Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net

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