Man awarded compensation after Bridgwater guide dog owner refused restaurant entry

  • Watch Ben McGrail's report on John Hardy, a man who is registered as blind and who was refused entry to a Somerset restaurant because he was with his guide dog

A Bridgwater man has been awarded compensation after a Somerset restaurant refused him entry because he was with his guide dog.

John Hardy is registered as blind and was trying to get a table at The Bengal Spice in Williton. A court found that the business had discriminated against him.

Mr Hardy was accompanied by his guide dog Sidney when he visited the restaurant in September 2021 but was refused entry by staff.

After a family day out with his wife, son and granddaughter, John entered the restaurant with Sidney but was told by a member of staff that he was not permitted to bring a dog inside.

John said: “I tried to explain that I was blind and Sidney was a guide dog but he wouldn’t listen and said it was unhygienic to have a dog near the kitchen.”

As the situation intensified, John says the staff member began only to speak to John’s son rather than him.

The family decided to leave the restaurant as they did not wish to dine there following the embarrassing incident.

Under the Equality Act 2010, restaurants and other service providers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to avoid putting people with disabilities at a substantial disadvantage.

A guide dog is classed as a reasonable adjustment under the Act.

John, who coordinates The Hub in Bridgwater - a community space above Angel Place shopping centre - said: “I eat out quite a bit and everybody knows Sidney locally, but when you walk into somewhere new, you are anxious and hyper-aware, wondering if you will have to present your argument and explain why a guide dog is allowed into a restaurant.”

Sidney and John are well known around Bridgwater, with many cafes and restaurants happy to welcome them

John contacted the RNIB following the incident and was advised he had a case under the Equality Act.

Following a one-day hearing at Taunton County Court in December 2022, the judgement was awarded in John’s favour and he was given compensation of £2,000.

Law firm Simmons & Simmons worked with RNIB to advise Mr Hardy.

Emily Monastiriotis, Partner and International Head of Disputes Resolution, said: “We are really pleased to have assisted Mr Hardy in successfully bringing a claim in respect of the discrimination he encountered on this occasion, but we are aware of the ongoing discrimination faced by people living with a disability.

"We hope this sends a strong message that discrimination is unacceptable and reminds businesses of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010.”

Anita Marshall, Specialist Lead in RNIB’s Legal Rights Service, said: “Unfortunately, cases of guide dog refusals, like John experienced, continue to be far from unusual, with restaurants and other service providers often oblivious to or ignoring the legislation.

"We were pleased to be able to work with Simmons & Simmons to bring this case and to see John vindicated in the judgement.

"Our Legal Rights team works tirelessly to challenge discrimination, including access refusals, and would encourage blind and partially sighted people to report incidents and challenge discrimination wherever it occurs.”

The Bengal Spice did not comment when ITV News contacted them.

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