Can a Private Business Ban Someone From Entering?

Yes, as long as the ban does not violate the law and is non-discriminatory, as this clueless guy discovered when he tried to take an illegal substance into a theme park.

Theme park ride called a spinning carousel in a blur of motion at dusk.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the strangest phone calls I’ve received thus far in 2023 was from “Rudy,” who called to ask me if a private business’ ban against him could be lifted. He began our conversation with, “Can you get a ban they have on me removed?”

“Ban? What kind of a ban are you talking about, and who are ‘they’?” I replied.

And thus began a dialogue with someone whose grasp on what’s important seemed lacking when you have a nice-paying job with great benefits and a family that includes three children.

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“We were at a theme park where everyone had to walk past a metal detector. The security people pulled me over and asked, ‘What’s that metal object in your right front pants pocket? Please remove it.’”

I wondered as well what it could be and asked him. “It was just shrooms,” Rudy replied. “Just shrooms.”

As this was not a clear cell connection, I thought he was saying shrimps. I asked, “Why would you have shrimps wrapped in foil in your pants? It may be odd, but I can’t think of any law being broken by having shrimps in your pocket.”

“No, Mr. Beaver, s-h-r-o-o-m-s. Magic mushrooms. They are a psychedelic drug, and there was a large sign listing the things that could not be brought into the park, including shrooms.”

Wait, What Was in His Pocket?

(In case these terms are new to you, magic mushrooms, aka psychedelic mushrooms and shrooms, cause hallucinations when ingested. Their scientific name is psilocybin mushrooms. Psilocybin and psilocin are the psychoactive chemicals in fungi that can make people feel high.)

“So, what happened, Rudy?”

“They copied all my personal information, including driver’s license, and took several photographs of me.” He was told these would go into a facial-recognition database and that if he entered any of the company’s other properties, he would be considered a trespasser, and law enforcement would be notified.


The worst part of Rudy’s experience — and reason for his phone call — was, as he said, “They handed me a sheet of paper that said I was banned for one year from entering any properties or hotels under their management.

“But, Mr. Beaver, we purchased a year-long pass to the parks, and we visit often. This is horribly embarrassing! Can’t something be done? I have called lawyer after lawyer, and they all say that a court will not force the park to lift that ban. But it is so unfair! I’ll bet that if you talk with them, they will want to avoid bad publicity and lift the ban.”

Very likely you are thinking, "If a business holds itself open for the public, can it legally ban someone from coming onto its premises?" The answer is an absolute yes!

A private business — not connected to the government — can refuse service to whomever it wants and insist that people leave their premises for any reason that does not violate the law, including race, national origin, gender, religious background, sexual orientation or other unlawful categories, such as disabilities, as addressed by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Sorry, But What Did You Say Your Job Was?

In the confusion over shrimps and shrooms, I had forgotten to ask Rudy what he does for a living. “Oh, I’m a correctional officer in my state,” he said, sounding clueless about the consequences if the incident came to the attention of his employer.

“Rudy, pleases correct me if I am wrong, but in your state, possession of shrooms is itself a drug offense. You would lose your job as a C.O. if management became aware that you were in possession of magic mushrooms and trying to enter the theme park. Have you considered that possibility?”

Long silence. “My God, I never did!” But can’t something be done?” he asked in a sad tone, adding, “My family still are not completely aware of what happened.”

Saying ‘I’m Sorry’ Can’t Hurt

Rudy’s phone call gave me an idea. I called the theme park and spoke with its head of security, not mentioning Rudy’s name, but stating the facts and saying, “He revealed himself as having IQ in the idiot range, but I think the experience boosted him into the normal range. Of course, I am not writing an article that even mentions your name, but suppose he writes a sincere letter of apology to the park and agrees to pay for whatever this incident has cost in terms of hours lost? Would there be a possibility of the ban being lifted? With their three children, the embarrassment would be punishment that far outweighed the crime. So, what do you think? I am certain he will accept your decision.”

The gentleman asked that I give him 24 hours, and he would call me back with an answer. But I didn’t have to wait that long. He phoned 30 minutes later.

“Mr. Beaver, you’ve got a deal. Thanks for the idea.”

The letter of apology Rudy wrote was touching. He sent me an email a week later from the park. I hope he always remembers the kindness shown to him.

Respect the Rules, and We All Have a Great Time

Theme parks have many rules of what is permitted and what will get you in trouble. These are available online and posted at the parks themselves. It is worthwhile being familiar with them, as my reader discovered.

There was one request the park’s security manager asked of me. “Mr. Beaver, you might want mention that a problem all theme parks have on a frequent basis is when companies reward their employees with visits. We want everyone to have a good time, but please, no drugs, and keep drinking to a respectable amount.”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield, Calif., and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993, or e-mailed to And be sure to visit


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

H. Dennis Beaver, Esq.
Attorney at Law, Author of "You and the Law"

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California's Kern County District Attorney's Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, "You and the Law." Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. "I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift."