A manager at Taste of China has spoken in defense of the restaurant after a local woman videoed workers seemingly refusing to serve her when she entered the restaurant with her service dog.
Yvonne Brown posted a video to YouTube in October, showing her entering the restaurant with her service dog, a German Shepherd named Ulf. Brown, who has diabetes, lupus and other neurological issues, has Ulf to alert her when her sugar is low and to help with balance.
Before she went inside, she explained she’d come to the restaurant the night before and was refused service because of her service dog. She returned to the restaurant the next day to resolve the issue, and recorded the reactions of the managers to her service dog.
She took the video in September and filed papers with the Human Rights Commission in October, and she said she wasn’t sure why the video was just now surfacing on social media.
On the evening before she shot the video, Brown said she and her husband went on a dinner date to the restaurant. Once they were inside, the waitress offered to seat them, she said, but a manager kicked them out.
“There were no misunderstandings that we were being kicked out,” she said. “My sugars were low. I needed to eat, and I could not stay (to resolve it). So I came back the next day, and I was very polite and very calm. I’ve had people who didn’t know or didn’t understand (about my service dog), but I’ve never been treated that way when I (went) back to try to educate or talk to them.”
The video shows Brown and Ulf entering the restaurant and being told dogs were not allowed. She can be heard attempting to explaining to them about the Americans with Disabilities Act, which allows service dogs wherever the public can go. The man and woman working at the restaurant in the video are seen waving at her to leave and telling her to go to another restaurant.
Another woman is shown coming into the restaurant and telling the workers Brown probably can’t be without the dog and it wouldn’t hurt anybody. They again told Brown to go to another restaurant.
Brown said the waitresses during both visits apologized for what was happening, and the waitress in the video offered to give her a to-go bag.
The Americans with Disabilities Act states local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or if the dog is not housebroken. Establishments that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises. People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons, treated less favorably or charged fees not charged to other patrons without animals. When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, staff may only ask two questions, including if the dog is a service animal required because of a disability and what work or task has the dog been trained to do. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require documentation or identification of the dog or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the task. Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.
Taste of China’s food manager Steve Fallen said the workers are well aware of what the Americans with Disabilities Act requires by law and do not discriminate, nor have they ever been discriminatory.
“It’s completely a misunderstanding,” he said. “As most have observed by now, the video is very damaging and it doesn’t present the whole story.”
He said the first night Brown came to the restaurant, the owner pointed for the waitress to take her, her husband and her dog to a section of the restaurant where it would be more convenient for her to sit. He said after that, they left.
“We’ve been here eight years and have not discriminated. We have people with dogs come here. Now it’s gotten blown way out of proportion. We’re sorry for that,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate it could happen that way.”
He said the workers reacted when she came in the second day because they were expecting trouble from her.
“They’re hardworking people. They’re trying to make a living like anyone else,” he said. “It’s a shame we live in a society where we’re so quick to judge.”
He said they have an attorney and the issue is currently under litigation.
“We have reached out to Miss Brown, but we’ve gotten no response,” he said.
Brown said she is waiting for the restaurant to fill out papers through the Human Rights commission, through which she also has an attorney.
“I just wanted them to understand what was wrong and correct their behavior,” Brown said. “In four and a half years (that I’ve had a service dog), I’ve never turned anyone in. I think them laughing at me and pointing at me was kind of a turning point. I don’t wish them any ill will, I don’t want them to suffer in business, and I don’t want anyone to boycott them. I just want them to get the education that they need. I don’t understand it, I don’t understand why they had to treat me the way they did. I don’t ever want them to do this to anyone else.”
Brown also said she wasn’t sure where the issue would go at this point