A blind man says he is preparing a formal complaint against a Brooklyn Popeyes restaurant after the franchise owner refused to let him in with his guide dog.
“He kept saying, ‘no dog, no dog, no dog,'” Willie Richards told CBS2.
Richards, who has been completely blind for 20 years was told to leave the Bushwick Popeyes because, as the sign on the door states, “no dogs allowed.”
“He pointed to a sign, but we explained to him that’s for regular dogs, but this is a service dog,” Richards said, CBS2 reported.
“She provides me with my independence. Without her, I am nothing.”
Federal law allows service animals, like Richards’ dog Yolette, to go with their handlers anywhere the public is allowed. Service dogs are not allowed in places the public is barred from, like a restaurant kitchen.
A police officer responded to the location, but was unable to convince the owner to let Richards eat there, CBS2 reported. The owner reportedly said it is his property, so he sets the rules.
“I was appalled and shocked. I’ve experienced this before where first they are reluctant,” Richards told CBS2.
“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,” President of Assistance Dogs International North America Paul Mundell said, CBS2 reported.
The manager of the Myrtle Avenue location, Rahana Alam, told CBS she knows the law, but she wasn’t there on Wednesday to take care of it.
A call made by Metro was directed to the Popeyes corporate office when a reporter called the Brooklyn location for a comment. The owner's New Jersey home phone number would not accept messages.
Popeyes issued a statement, CBS2 reported:
“Thank you for making us aware of this guest’s concern. We welcome every guest at Popeyes and want everyone to have the best experience possible, and franchises are required to follow all federal, state and local regulations. The manager and owner of this restaurant are trying to work with this guest to address the concerns directly.”
The owner remains steadfast. While speaking to CBS2, he asked how he knows Richards is actually blind and said he had health concerns about the dog being in the eatery.
“We have to protect ourselves too. I mean, the man walked in with a dog, no tags on the dog, no nothing,” the owner told CBS2.
Richards said he went public hoping to educate others. He and a witness are filing a complaint with New York’s human rights commission, CBS2 reported.