A Popeye’s Chicken restaurant in Brooklyn, New York refused service to a blind man because of his service dog.
According to CBS New York, the franchise owner refused even after a police officer informed him that disability law dictates that he must serve a disabled customer in the company of a service animal.
“He just kept saying, ‘No dog! No dog!'” said Willie Richards to CBS Channel 2.
Richards lost his sight after an injury 20 years ago. His service dog Yolette goes with him everywhere, but when he tried to take a meal at the Popeye’s in Bushwick, the owner kicked him and Yolette out.
“He pointed to a sign, but we explained to him that’s for regular dogs,” Richards said. “But this is a service dog.”
When Channel 2 spoke to a manager on duty, she said that she is aware of the law, but wasn’t on the premises on the day of the confrontation.
The TV station called the franchise owner at home. He said he stands by his decision, saying that he doesn’t know for sure whether Richards is really blind and citing health code concerns.
Richards said that under normal circumstances, even when business owners are reluctant to allow the dog inside, they typically relent when made to understand that service dogs and their handlers are allowed everywhere.
Even when a police officer explained that to the restaurant owner, he refused to serve Richards and demanded that Yolette be taken outside.
Paul Mundell — president of Assistance Dogs International North America — told CBS the restaurant is in the wrong.
“Under the American Disabilities Act, restaurants, and for that matter any other area of public accommodation, in other words areas where the public can come and go, service dogs are permitted and they can’t be denied unless they are creating a disturbance,” Mundell said.
Richards said that he has filed a formal complaint and gone public with his story in hopes of educating others. The restaurant demanded documentation from him, which he explained is against the law. Disabled persons are never required to carry papers certifying that they are disabled.
Yolette, Richards said, is his lifeline to normal life.
“She provides me with my independence. Without her, I am nothing,” he said.
Watch the video, embedded below: