HUDSON, Fla. (WFLA) — Mike Keech says he was humiliated when a server asked him to leave a Florida restaurant because his service dog was not allowed.
Keech, who is blind, says he showed the server at Overtime Sports Bar & Grill a certification card that explains the Americans with Disabilities Act, but he was still asked to go.
“The bartender came from around the bar and said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t serve you,’ before we even tried to order,” Keech recalled. “And I said, ‘That’s not right.’ This dog is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
The law prohibits discrimination based on disability. The law defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”
Keech, who was there with his stepson and dog, Nicco, said, “I don’t have to take this. I just wanted a hamburger with mushrooms and a couple of Budweisers — that’s it.”
Cindy Smith, the bar and grill’s owner, says she wasn’t there that day, but her server called her. She takes responsibility for making the decision to ask the group to leave but says she didn’t realize Keech was blind.
Smith says she’s cracking down on support animals, not service animals.
“In the past week, someone came in saying they had a service dog and it almost bit a customer,” Smith said. “We have dogs trying to sit in their laps, sitting on stools, trying to eat off their plates, and it’s a little difficult in recognizing what’s legitimate and not legitimate.”
Smith apologized, saying Keech and Nicco are welcome back and that she’ll give Keech a burger and beer on the house.
In the meantime, she said she’s training staff to tell the difference between a service dog and a support dog.
Keech says he accepts the apology but doesn’t believe that anyone would mistake his dog for a support animal.
“I’m walking with my white cane, which is standard for the blind, and I’ve got the dog, which has the harness with, ‘Please do not pet me, I’m working,'” Keech said. “I’m wearing sunglasses and a hat in the building. What do you think?”