The Richmond-area celebration is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. at O'Charley's restaurant on Mayland Drive off Gaskins Road in western Henrico County, according to the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which expects more than 80 permit holders to attend.
"It's a continued step in the right direction," said Philip Van Cleave, president of the 5,000- member Virginia Citizens Defense League. "We tried to throw off the bonds that have tied down gun owners unconstitutionally for years."
In addition to the concealed weapons, the grass-roots gun group will mark the occasion with sheet cakes proclaiming "Rights Restored: Ban Repealed."
People who legally carry firearms openly already may enter restaurants that serve alcohol and may drink. But until today, a holder of a concealed-handgun permit could not bring a concealed firearm into any restaurant that served alcohol.
Gov. Bob McDonnell, signed the law in April, making Virginia one of 28 states that allow concealed guns in bars.
The new law prohibits concealed-handgun carriers from consuming alcohol in a bar or restaurant. A restaurant owner may refuse service to gun carriers and prohibit them from entering with their weapons, concealed or not.
A concealed-gun carrier who violates the law by consuming alcohol can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Gun owners also can be charged with trespassing for bringing their weapons into establishments that post signs prohibiting them.
"Guns and alcohol don't mix under any circumstances," said Lori Haas, an advocate for the Virginia Center for Public Safety whose daughter, Emily, was wounded during the Virginia Tech shootings in April 2007.
The restaurant industry is concerned about how the law will be enforced.
"We still do believe that while most gun owners are truly law-abiding and won't pose a problem, like everyone else, they are human beings," said Tom Lisk, a lobbyist who represents the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association.
"We have no way to police it because the firearm is concealed, and we don't know if we're serving somebody who might be carrying concealed. So, it's going to be up to the gun owners to police themselves," Lisk said.
Also effective today, people who don't have concealed-weapons permits may stow their firearms in the glove compartment or a container in their vehicle.
The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control had not yet sent out a newsletter yesterday informing the 16,000 ABC licensees about the concealed-guns-in-bars law.
Philip Bogenberger, a spokesman for the department, said a violation of the law is not an ABC violation. The responsibility to refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages rests with the permit holder, he said.
Several bar managers contacted said they were not aware of the new law.
Rachel Grove, a marketing director for The Tobacco Company restaurant in Richmond's Shockoe Slip, said the company has written a letter to the governor's office asking for an explanation of the law but has not heard back.
"We don't know what we can and cannot do," she said. "It's definitely a concern."
At Philip's Continental Lounge, a West End watering hole, manager Kyle Measell is not waiting for instructions.
"It's an idiot law," he said. "I believe in gun rights, but you don't need people to bring guns into bars." He added that Philip's is not allowing patrons with guns.
Poe's Pub at the eastern end of Shockoe Bottom is allowing patrons with concealed-weapons permits to bring in guns, owner Mike Britt said, though he doesn't think guns and alcohol are a good mixture.
Britt figures people have been carrying the guns illegally into his bar anyway, so he sees little impact from the law.
"Guns are everywhere," he added.
Here are the restaurants where the Virginia Citizens Defense League is celebrating the new concealed-carry law tonight. The events are open to the public.
> Henrico County -- O'Charley's, 9927 Mayland Drive
> Charlottesville -- Topeka's Steakhouse, 1791 Richmond Road
> Norfolk -- Mona Lisa Pizza, Pasta and Subs, 9583 Shore Drive
> Reston -- Champps Americana, 11694 Plaza America Drive
> Vinton -- Famous Anthony's, 323 E. Virginia Ave.
> Woodbridge -- Uncle Julio's Fine Mexican Food, 14900 Potomac Town Place, Suite 150
> Yorktown -- Country Grill, 1215-a George Washington Highway (U.S. 17)