Guide Dog refused entry to restaurant
As survey reveals one in eight food outlets breaks the law
A BLIND woman's birthday celebrations were ruined after a local Indian Restaurant refused to allow her Guide Dog to enter the premises, betraying an ignorance of the law that allows assistance dogs access to such establishments.
Mother-of-three Jill Coggin, 40, of Fourfields, Bamber Bridge, Lancashire, a former nurse who lost her sight completely after the birth of her first daughter due to diabetes, has suffered similar problems getting access to restaurants on previous occasions.
Three weeks ago Jill and her family arranged to go out for a meal to celebrate her 40th birthday.
As she has a six-week old baby, Jill sent her husband, John, ahead to check there was room for the family and the atmosphere was not too smoky for the baby.
The first two restaurants they tried were too busy and smoky and so they returned home to Bamber Bridge to try the local Naaz Indian Cuisine restaurant on Club Street.
However, both Jill and John were devastated to find that even though there was plenty of room and it was not smoky, they were not allowed in with her guide dog, Fizzy.
Jill said: "John went to the barman and said 'is it all right if we bring our guide dog in?' and he said 'no' then the under-manager came up and he said 'no' as well.
"I was extremely angry. It is just so unfair. Why should I not be able to go inside somewhere just because I have got a guide dog?
"I need Fizzy to see and it's not as though she would be walking around begging for food, she is properly trained and she sits under the table and you would not even know she was there. I need her for getting in and out of buildings mainly.
"I would have been totally devastated if I had been on my own and they had refused me. As it was, we ended up going home and just heating up a pizza. It ruined my evening."
Just days after Jill's story was printed in the Lancashire Evening Post, the restaurant owner offered to make amends, saying he had been unaware of the incident.
Fazal Ali, owner of Naaz Indian Cuisine, apologised unreservedly and offered to invite Jill Coggin and her husband for a meal.
Mr Ali said: "It was a stupid mistake. I had two members of staff here who were really new and I did not know about what had happened until I read it in the paper.
"Apparently, the woman's husband had spoken to the young lad in the bar who only works one night a week and asked if they could come in with the dog. He said 'no' because he knew dogs were not allowed and he assumed that meant guide dogs as well. I have a relative who helps me on Saturdays. It was not the under manager as the couple thought, but the bar man asked him and he went to find me to see if it was OK, but I was not there. By the time he returned the couple had left.
"Guide dogs are allowed because I have let them in myself. I have written a letter of apology to the lady and I would like to ask her and her husband for a meal."
Jill said she was pleased with the invitation and said: "That is very nice of him. If he does offer us a meal I am sure we will accept and I will take Fizzy with us.
"Hopefully it has made them realise that if somebody does turn up with a dog in a harness that there is something different about them and they are going to let them in.
"Guide dogs are not going to be wandering around a restaurant licking people's plates, they are trained and they just sit under the table doing as they are told." Added Jill. "We just need to get this education out to people."
More and more people with guide dogs are being banned from restaurants and pubs, a shocking report revealed last week.
The nationwide survey, commissioned by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association as part of its Access for All campaign, found that one in eight restaurants and pubs breaks the law by refusing to accept the dogs.
Of the 500 restaurants, food-serving pubs and bistros contacted for the survey, 62 refused to accept a guide dog owner with their dog on the premises - citing concerns for other customers, lack of space and health and safety fears.
A further 18 admitted being reluctant and expressed concerns about lack of space and the dog's general behaviour.
Only two pubs or restaurants showed any awareness of the law: that to refuse a guide dog owner because of their dog was illegal.
Guide Dogs' for the Blind chief executive Geraldine Peacock said: "Most of us cannot imagine how hurtful and embarrassing it is to be refused entry or even be thrown out of a pub or restaurant.
"With Access for All Guide Dogs, we hope to persuade the minority who still practice prejudice to open their doors."