Blind friends win case after dog refused entry
Two blind friends turned away from a restaurant because they had a guide dog have been awarded £1,000 each in compensation.
Andrea Hope (25), and Jamie Coady (28), were told by staff at the Imperial City Chinese restaurant on Botanic Avenue in Belfast they could not sit in the main restaurant with the dog. The incident took place in December 2005.
The friends were told they could leave the animal tied up outside, have a take-out meal or sit in a private room.
They took their case to the Equality Commission Northern Ireland and in February this year were paid £1,000 each in an out of court settlement.
The restaurant owners apologised and admitted a breach of the Disability Discrimination Act. The Imperial City is now under new ownership.
Ms Hope, who was out with Mr Coady to celebrate his 26th birthday, said: " When we went into the restaurant a woman came up and said we can't accept your dog. I said: 'Look, we phoned you. We told you there was a guide dog'.
"But they said we would have to tie the dog up outside while we ate in the restaurant. I told them I needed the dog. Then they said maybe we could take our food away with us, that they'd give us a takeaway.
"I told them we'd come out to eat. If we'd wanted a takeaway we'd have ordered one."
As the friends waited outside trying to get a taxi to another restaurant, staff offered to let them use a private room.
"I told them we didn't want that," said Ms Hope. "If we weren't allowed to eat with everyone else, then we'd go on somewhere else I told them."
Mr Coady said the experience ruined their night out.
The new owner of the Imperial City, Eileen Li, said the incident was regrettable. "Everyone is welcome in here," she said.
The case was highlighted by the Equality Commission to raise awareness about the difficulties disabled people experience.