Man Files Lawsuit, Claims He Was Denied Service Because Of Guide Dog
Posted November 8, 2000 6:00 a.m. EST
ZEBULON — A man is taking a Chapel Hill restaurant to court for refusing to serve him because of his guide dog even after the police got involved and explained not serving him was a violation of federal law.
Since he was 16, David Oberhart has relied on guide dogs to help him navigate unfamiliar places.
"He keeps me out of trouble makes sure I don't hit anything, fall into a hole, or get run over by a car," he says.
Oberhart was using Cooper the night he visited Zorba's Restaurant. He was surprised when the owner refused to serve him even when he explained Cooper was his guide dog.
"I said he was highly trained, and she said, 'I don't care. You can leave him in the car. You have all these other people here to help you,'" he says.
Iris Andros says she did not want the dog in her restaurant for health and safety reasons. She claims no one told her it was a guide dog.
"The gentleman did not mention anything about his disability, or about him being blind," he says. "He did not have kin with him. He did not have sunglasses on."
When he was turned away, Oberhart contacted Chapel Hill police. The department says they informed the restaurant owner she was violating theAmerican with Disabilities Act-- something Andros denies.
"I'm very sure if I was informed that he was a blind guy, and it is the law, it would be different," she says.
David Oberhart is now suing the restaurant. He says it is not a matter of money, but principle.
"By nature, I'm not a crusader, but I'm not past teaching someone a lesson when they need it," he says.
The matter will be taken up in court on Monday. It is against state and federal law to refuse a guide dog entry into a public place.
In North Carolina, it is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a $500 fine. Andros says she will fight the charges.