Was Refusal To Seat In Booth Discrimination?
January 15, 2004
KITTREDGE, COLORADO--A restaurant owner and a would-be customer are squaring off over a question of accommodation for people whose disabilities are not visible, the Evergreen Canyon Courier reported Thursday.
T.G. Spirit claims that he and a friend recently walked into the Country Road Cafe for breakfast and asked to sit in a booth. There was one booth left, but the waitress offered to seat the couple at a table instead. Spirit explained that he could not sit in a chair because of a back injury. The waitress explained that booths were reserved for parties of four or more, and again offered him a table. When Spirit noticed that two of the booths had just two people seated, he and his friend left.
Spirit later called the owner to inform him that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, he was required to make reasonable accommodations to patrons with disabilities. According to Spirit, the owner got defensive and told him it was not his responsibility to make Spirit comfortable.
"A simple 'I'm sorry' would have settled it," said Spirit, who is filing a discrimination complaint against the cafe with the Department of Justice.
"It was a really rude thing to do to someone," he told the Courier.
Mark Finn, who owns the cafe with his wife, disputes Spirit's claim that the booths had less than four customers. According to Finn, Spirit did not mention his disability and did not say he could not sit at a table.
"He literally turned around and walked out," said Finn, who added that he was surprised at the accusations, especially considering that he spent $10,000 putting in a ramp and handrails for his patrons with disabilities.
"I truly don't think I did anything wrong, and if I did, I want to know about it," Finn explained.
Julie Reiskin, the director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, discussed some of the aspects of the ADA that might apply in this case.
"Restaurant seating situation prompts ADA clarification" (Canyon Courier)