Mary Beth Metzger, who is blind, tried to dine at Hana Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar with her service dog, Foster, and her friend Phyllis Mullaney in late January. She was denied. As the group stood at the hostess stand, the manager gave them his reason, again and again and again.
“The manager said, ‘No dogs,’ so many times,” Mullaney told the Times Union. “And he seated other people while basically ignoring us. It was so disrespectful.”
Metzger and Mullaney tried to explain the federal law to the manager, but they had no luck. Nor did three other diners behind them at the hostess stand, which was surprising, as the trio were all lawyers out to get a bite to eat.
“It was so wrong for them to deny her a seat,” the story quoted attorney Cynthia LaFave, who said she argued with the manager for “a good deal of time.”
Along with repeating “no dogs,” manager Lui Cheng explained that at Hana, dogs weren’t allowed to dine with other customers for the simple fact that they were … well, scary.
“He kept saying Foster would scare the other customers,” Metzger told the paper. “Foster wasn’t doing anything — he was just standing there like a stuffed animal.”
Faced with three lawyers and a woman well versed in her rights, the manager refused to budge, so Metzger did something she’d never done in all her years with service dogs (Foster is her fifth): She called police. And when they came, things got even weirder.
The manager said he could seat them in a separate room with the dog, by themselves. He said that was the restaurant’s policy — to keep service dogs “away from other customers,” according to the Times Union. Obviously, that didn’t wash with Metzger.
“I wanted to sit where everyone else was sitting, and we have the right to. The law is very clear,” she said.
In the weeks following her horrible treatment at Hana, Metzger was active. She got in touch with a disability-rights attorney and tried to get Hana to change its policy. She asked the restaurant to put a sign in the window saying service dogs were welcome and to train its staff in the law — she even offered to train the staff herself. According to Metzger, Hana Steakhouse wasn’t interested.
Instead, it offered her a $200 gift card.
So Metzger did something else she’d never done before — she contacted the media. And after the Times Union got ahold of the story, Hana quickly changed its tune. On Monday, it posted a long apology on its Facebook page. It also hung the sign about service animals and contacted Metzger about training the staff.
On Tuesday, Metzger returned to Hana unannounced — with a staff photographer from the Times Union — to see if she would be welcome. She was. She said she sat where she wanted — a teppanyaki table — and ate a “lovely” meal with Foster lying down under the table. She’s also in talks to train the staff.
As for the manager, he no longer works for Hana Steakhouse.
Here’s part of the apology that Hana posted on its Facebook page:
Hana Japanese Steakhouse genuinely apologizes for Ms. Metzger’s experience. The manager’s actions were not in accordance with company policy and have caused great embarrassment to our establishment. Hana Japanese Steakhouse and the manager have since parted ways. … On behalf of Hana Japanese Steakhouse, we offer our sincerest apologies and we will make an ongoing effort to maintain a welcoming environment for all guests. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.
Via the Times Union.