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A Colorado restaurateur not only defied federal law when he kicked out a customer with his service dog, but followed the incident with a public anti-service dog Facebook rant and an offensive email to the customer. Now, he could be facing hefty federal fines for discrimination against the disabled.
Chris Suter, a 52-year-old disabled veteran, visited Bayfield, Colorado’s Pura Vida Cafe with his family, a friend, and, of course, his service dog, Lunch.
Lunch, a 75-pound Pointer mix, has helped his disabled veteran handler with mobility issues for the past 4 years. Lunch steadies Suter when walking and provides stability and support to assist him in getting back up if he falls.
Just moments after sitting down at a table on September 12, Gary Peach, who identified himself as the restaurant owner, approached the table and told the guests no dogs were allowed, Suter explained to The Durango Herald.
Suter said that after explaining that Lunch was a service dog and informing Peach that under the American’s With Disabilities Act, he was granted federal rights to bring Lunch with him into any public place, including restaurants, Peach reportedly said, “The ADA does not apply to me, it’s my restaurant, get out.”
When the confrontation became heated, Suter, who teaches classes about service dog law and etiquette, left the restaurant, but not before providing his email address and offering to provide information and education about service dog access laws to Peach and his employees.
Later that evening, restaurant owner Peach sent a lengthy, offensive email to Suter, defending his actions. First, Peach expressed frustration over allowing dogs into restaurants, particularly alongside patrons that falsely claim their dog is a service animal.
Then, the law-breaking restaurateur made some suggestions to the disabled veteran that got our blood boiling.
“There are ways around your disability such as having one of the people with you steady you as you walk or pick you up should you fall,” Peach wrote in the email, which Suter shared with The Durango Herald. “… You claimed this dog was your wheelchair then maybe you should get a wheelchair for restaurant purposes???”
Days later, the restaurant owner took things from bad to much worse, posting a (since deleted) public Facebook rant against service dog laws that included the following statements:
“I cannot and will not go along with the idiotic service dog [expletive],” the post read. “It is a very poorly written joke of a law that was not thought out for even a minute. … I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”
Suter said that, in the four years that he’s been partnered with Lunch, he has faced incidents of discrimination from other establishments. But, after Peach’s late night email, this was the first time he’s filed a federal complaint.