Blind World Magazine

Man and his Service Dog Feel Restaurant Discriminated Against Them.

February 7, 2006.
WAVY-TV - Portsmouth,VA,USA.

The American with Disabilities Act allows service animals to go where their owner goes, including restaurants.

A Newport News man says that one restaurant didn't follow that rule, and refused to allow his dog to accompany him inside.

Stephen Banks has been blind for 21 years, but his disability has not stopped him from doing what most people do. Banks companion is a 3-year-old labrador named Randy.

Banks called WAVY News Ten on Your Side to investigate why he was stopped at the door of a Newport News eatery.

"The first time we went in there they said we couldn't bring the dog in there. They said he's not allowed, and we had to go back out," Banks recalled of the last time he, Randy and his friend Mary went to the Red City Buffet.

Another customer intervened, and the three of them were allowed in. Banks says he usually doesn't have a problem. The trio has been to eat at the Golden Corral, Bennigans, and Applebees.

WAVY News Reporter Lori Crouch accompanied Banks to lunch at the Red City Buffet with an undercover camera.

The hostess told Crouch and Banks he was not allowed to bring the dog inside. The hostess said the dog wasn't allowed in, because he might disturb the other guests.

WAVY News shared what they had found with Kelly Gonzalez, an American with Disabilities Act spokesperson. Gonzalez says the restaurant broke the law.

"The american with disabilities act clearly says that you can't prohibit somebody from coming into a business... Service animals are allowed to go where customers go."

When Crouch showed the video to Restaurant owner Ren Chen, he said he was unaware of the law. Chen claimed the city should have notified him about the ADA law, so he could let his employees know.

Banks says the experience has left a bad taste in his mouth.

All discrimination complaints are reviewed by the Department of Justice, and the fines can vary. A first offense has a fine of up to $50,000, and a second offense the fine can be up to $100,000.

If you feel you have been discriminated against, you can call the Department of Justice at 1-800-514-0301 or the ADA information line at 1-800-949-4232.

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