Art Bouvier has a message for criminals: Don’t mess with Papa Roux.
The Eastside restaurant owned by Bouvier was robbed Saturday night, the first time that’s happened in the popular Cajun eatery’s eight years of business. Now, Bouvier is offering a 25 percent discount to customers who can show a concealed carry permit.
“I don’t want Papa Roux to turn into the O.K. Corral,” Bouvier told The Indianapolis Star by phone Sunday morning, “but I don’t want to be an easy target.”
Bouvier announced the discount offer on his Facebook page Saturday night, shortly after learning of the robbery. “If thugs are going to come in and threaten OUR extended family with guns, you’d better believe I will use every trick I know to protect (our family),” he wrote. The message drew more than 1,000 likes by 1 p.m. Sunday.
No one was injured in the robbery, which happened about 7:30 p.m. when several customers were dining inside the restaurant at 8950 E. 10th St.
“My crew needs to be commended for how they handled the situation,” Bouvier said Sunday. “They were completely professional — no one even knew what was going on until (the robber) left.”
According to Bouvier, the lone robber said, “I have a gun; I’m gonna need all the money out of your registers,” though the man did not show a weapon.
“I’ve told my employees that money is replaceable, your lives are not,” Bouvier said. “Everyone is a little shaken up today; my manager can’t shake the feeling of helplessness, but I don’t want her to fear this happening again.”
In an interview with The Star on Sunday, shift leader Hannah Watts said the man, who appeared to be in his 20s and was wearing a hoody, seemed friendly at first as he placed his order with another employee. When Watts returned to the counter, however, she heard him say, “Don’t move,” before he reached his hand into the tip jar and grabbed a wad of bills.
“I froze,” she said. “There was something about his voice.”
The other employee reported that the man claimed to have a gun and repeatedly demanded that the cash register be opened. It’s not clear how much money was taken.
Bouvier said anyone who knows him knows he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but he’s never made it a business issue. Until now.
“We’re not saying, ‘Show us your gun.’ But if you’re a legal and stable carrier of a concealed carry license, I’m going to reward that,” he said. “To me, it’s common sense. And until further notice, you’ll get 25 percent off your bill.”
The restaurant is popular with law enforcement personnel — and the presence of police vehicles in the parking lot can’t help but deter criminal activity, Bouvier said — but they won’t always be there.
Recent robberies of bars and restaurants on the Eastside and in Broad Ripple point to a new kind of desperation, a new degree of boldness, he said, though there’s nothing linking the incidents.
“This case appears to be an isolated event, and there is nothing indicating at this time that this is related to the other business robberies,” said Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Rafael Diaz Jr.
Bouvier’s “reward” for legal gun owners who have concealed carry permits has upset some longtime customers, he said.
“A few loyal customers have said they’ll be avoiding Papa Roux because of my stance, and that’s a little disheartening. But it’s minuscule compared to the overwhelming support,” he said. “It’s a shame that some people feel they need to stay away. They’ll go out to eat with the possibility that a criminal will bring a gun in, but they’ll stay away if they think customers might be carrying. That’s weird to me.
“What I need is Karen Dolley to bring her samurai sword in,” he said. “I wish I could have her on staff.”
Dolley made the news earlier this month when she fought off an intruder in her Eastside home, using her training in medieval combat and a Japanese-styled sword that she keeps by her bed.