As of last Thursday night, small restaurants in Newark, New Jersey must hire and post armed security guards on their premises if they wish to remain open at night.
The so-called Newark armed guards law applies to restaurants that can serve a maximum of 15 patrons, and that remain open after 9 p.m. However, those that close at 10 p.m. are not required to arm themselves.
Why is Newark targeting only small restaurants?
According to Reuters, Councilman Ras Baraka believes that small, walk-in eateries are "havens for criminal activity," as evidenced by a May drive-by at a late-night restaurant that resulted in the death of an off-duty police officer.
He hopes that, in addition to increasing patron safety, the Newark armed guards law will encourage owners to turn their businesses into "quality" sit-down restaurants where people must sit down for a meal.
It's clear that small restaurants will be negatively impacted by this law, as many are family business that rely on late-night patronage and fewer employees to make a profit.
However, there's not much that can be done to override the Council's decision.
On its face, the Newark armed guards law is discriminatory towards small restaurants, as it doesn't require mid-size or large restaurants to post armed guards.
While the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses offer some protection to businesses facing discriminatory legislation, it often only warrants minimal scrutiny.
What this means is that, as long as it is rationally based, the Newark armed guards law is probably constitutional.