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Canary Wharf restaurant’s licence under review after refusing entry to blind man’s guide dog

PUBLISHED: 17:00 29 July 2020

Under the Equality Act guide and other assistance dog owners have the right to enter most premises and vehicles with their animals. Picture: Ellie Hoskins

Under the Equality Act guide and other assistance dog owners have the right to enter most premises and vehicles with their animals. Picture: Ellie Hoskins

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A blind man who was refused entry to a restaurant with his guide dog instigated a landmark licence review which campaigners hope could set a precedent for disability training in the hospitality industry.

Artur Ortega said managers at Manjal in Canary Wharf told him he could not dine if he wanted to bring his trained dog Mercer inside.

Under the Equality Act guide and other assistance dog owners have the right to enter most premises and vehicles with their animals.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People complained to Tower Hamlets Council on Mr Ortega’s behalf. It triggered a licensing review, believed to be the first of its kind for a restaurant in the UK.

The charity wants conditions added to the diner’s licence, which will ensure staff have to go through training so they know the rules around discrimination against service dog owners.

Jack Holborn, the lawyer the charity has employed for the review, said it does not want to see Manjal lose its licence, but added: “The law is already very clear. What we are asking for is that restaurant staff have training to ensure things like this do not happen. We would like to see this added to all premises’ licences.”

Samantha Fothergill, of the RNIB, said: “This is an area where local authorities can and must use their licensing powers to stamp out this practice. We believe licensing powers can be used to require staff to be trained, to require the display of a sticker welcoming assistance dogs and, ultimately, to revoke licences where refusals happen.”

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Mr Ortega, a software engineer, and his colleagues were refused entry to the Indian restaurant last July.

Ms Fothergill said: “When Mr Ortega complained, the manager was called but he also confirmed guide dog Mercer was not welcome. The manager told Mr Ortega that not everyone liked dogs and that he should show some understanding of Asian culture.”

Mr Ortega said when the table was booked he had explained he was bringing a guide dog and he told staff that under the Equality Act he was allowed to bring Mercer inside.

He said: “I felt completely humiliated to be discriminated against in such a rude way.”

Naveen Bhandari, from Manjal, later wrote a letter to Mr Ortega apologising for the incident and offered the group a complimentary meal.

He said managers had realised their mistake while Mr Ortega was still in the restaurant and were going to allow him to dine there — but in the 15 minutes while they were preparing a table for him he had left.

Manjal’s legal representative Nick Nicholas told the council that all members of management were on furlough and he had been unable to obtain instructions from his client.

He said that the business was sharing an establishment at a different premises and if “this arrangement continues, the licence holder is likely to surrender the licence and there would be no point in making any amendments to the licence as it would no longer exist”.


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