A blind man from New York City is filing a formal complaint against a Popeyes restaurant for refusing him entry with his service dog.
Willie Richards of Brooklyn has been blind for 20 years after suffering from a traumatic injury. When he tried to visit the restaurant last Wednesday, Richards claims he was asked to leave the restaurant because a sign on the door said “no pets were allowed,” CBS 2 reports.
“He pointed to a sign, but we explained to him that’s for regular dogs, but this is a service dog,” Richards told CBS. He says he tried to explain to the restaurant manager that federal law permits service animals to accompany their handlers anywhere that the public is allowed-- but not even a responding police officer could convince the owner otherwise.
As a result Richards and his guide dog Yolette were forced to leave.
“He kept saying, ‘no dog, no dog, no dog,'” Richards recalled. “I was appalled and shocked. I’ve experienced this before where first they are reluctant."
Despite the police officer's assertion, the Popeyes owner insisted that the location was his property and, subsequently, that he set the rules.
After being alerted to the incident in Brooklyn, Popeyes corporate office issued a statement, saying that they “welcome every guest at Popeye’s 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.”
Incidents between disabled customers and restaurants, however, are not new.
In August 2015 McDonald’s issued a public apology to a visually impaired woman who claimed employees at a southern Norway location asked her to leave because she was accompanied by her service dog.
And in June, a Louisiana man sued McDonald’s over a drive-thru policy prohibiting customers without wheels from using the service. The customer said that the restaurant's refusal to accommodate those who cannot drive is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Many McDonald's restaurants operate only as drive-thrus during late-night hours but the restaurant’s company policy prohibits service to any drive-thru customers on foot.
Richards and a witness are moving forward with their complaint against Popeyes and have filed with New York City’s human rights commission.