A night out at the house of lancaster with a couple of wheelchair-bound buddies is usually an occasion to remember. The lights. The music. The table dances. A Polaroid with one of the dancers to take home as a keepsake. A sanctuary for indulging a fantasy or two on a hot summer night.
Three of us, along with one of our caregivers and her husband, decided it was time to make a return trip to the Queensway establishment last weekend.
The experience, though, would prove drastically different from the night of fun a few months earlier.
The Lancaster is no longer serving alcohol to patrons in wheelchairs -- or so the waitress tells us after taking our order and returning from the bar without our beers. A new policy, it seems, has been put in place.
We cry discrimination. Our caregiver, Emily, leaves the table to speak with the manager.
He tells her that another wheelchair-bound patron on medication suffered a seizure while drinking recently. Bad scene, apparently.
Management doesn't want to take any risks or be held liable, we're told, in case something similar happens. Curious reasoning coming from a place where I've witnessed more than a few able-bodied patrons leave pissed out of their minds.
He gives the waitress the go-ahead to serve us beer anyway -- but only after Emily assures him that she'll take responsibility if anything goes awry.
The entire incident puts a damper on the festivities. We each consume only one alcoholic beverage.
Then it occurs to us that we're having a hard time getting table dances.
I'm not sure if the women are under orders, if I'm imagining things or just getting a little paranoid after our set-to with the management over our beer.
But the hospitality quotient is certainly a far cry from our last visit. Back then, we each went home with a Polaroid with Porsche, that night's feature attraction. Though the place isn't particularly busy, it takes me 90 minutes to land a dance this night.
I'm ticked. A few days later, I follow up with a phone call to the club about this new policy. I first speak to the daytime manager, who has no idea what I'm talking about. He tells me to call back in the evening and ask for George.
A couple of nights later I'm able to reach George, but he knows nothing either. I call again the next night and ask for the owner. I'm under the impression I'm speaking with him until Steve, the general manager who won't reveal his last name, tells me the owner is tending to his sick mother.
Maybe it's the fact that I've identified myself as a NOW freelancer that's unnerving him, but by this time I get the distinct feeling that I'm getting the runaround.
Steve says maybe this whole incident was "a misunderstanding."
He insists they never refuse to serve alcohol unless someone looks intoxicated. He's quick to add that the House has been in business for 35 years.
"Always, we serve our people," Steve says. "We never have any problems at all. A lot of people in wheelchairs come here all the time. We're here to serve the customers. We're not here just to boycott those people."
Steve tells me he's there every night and was working the night my friends and I were last there but claims there weren't three people in wheelchairs together at the club any time recently. He doesn't recall the waitress asking him about serving people in wheelchairs either.
"You never was at this place here," Steve declares. "You must've been at some other place, not here."
He's wrong. I can show him proof. I had a picture taken that night with Destiny.