These kinds of things aren't supposed to happen any more, especially not at a popular eatery like the Marché. But it appears the chain's Bayview location recently asked a woman with a seeing-eye dog to vacate the premises. Diner Paolo Burzese was tucking into his breaded schnitzel when he spied a non-sighted woman being told to leave with her dog.
The woman, he says, showed the Marché staff the permit for her visual-aid canine, but manager Sam Luxmikanthan examined it and ruled the dog could not stay, explaining that Mövenpick (Marché) is a market and not a restaurant. Apparently, customers had raised hygienic concerns about the animal.
After a kerfuffle in which nearby patrons pleaded her case, Luxmikanthan then relented, says Burzese.
The manager decided the woman and her dog could stay but that she would have to move to a table situated away from everyone else. At that point, he reports, the woman, obviously very shaken up, walked out.
City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross, when told of the incident, says, "No one can refuse service in this situation, plain and simple.
The city does not tolerate any form of discrimination and takes these matters very seriously.' Municipal bylaws threaten a $5,000 penalty for such infractions.
According to non-sighted Toronto lawyer David Lepofsky, chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, these incidents will likely continue until the province amends the act, which was adopted only last fall. The act does not cover infractions in private-sector organizations.
"We need a strong ODA, not the weak one we got from the Conservative government,' he says.
Manager Luxmikanthan sounds contrite when I get him on the phone. He confesses that he "made a mistake" and says he was having "a tough day dealing with all the customers." He says he welcomes the woman back any time.
"We learned a lesson, and the next time we will know how to really handle it the proper way," he says. We certainly hope so.