HUDSON, Fla. (WFLA) – Mike Keech says he was humiliated when a server asked him to leave a restaurant because his dog, a service dog, was not allowed.
Keech, who is blind, says he showed the server at Overtime Sport Bar & Grill in Hudson a certification card that explains ADA law, but he was still asked to go.
“The bartender came from around the bar and said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t serve you,’ before we even tried to order,” Keech recalled. “And I said, ‘That’s not right.’ This dog is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
Keech, who was there with his stepson and dog, Nicco, turned to Better Call Behnken for answers.
“I don’t have to take this,” Keech said. “I just wanted a hamburger with mushrooms and a couple of Budweisers, that’s it.”
Cindy Smith, the sports bar and grill owner, said she wasn’t there that day, but her server called her. She takes responsibility for asking the group to leave but says she didn’t realize Keech was blind.
Smith says she’s cracking down on support animals, not service animals.
“In the past week someone came in saying they had a service dog, and it almost bit a customer,” Smith said. “We have dogs trying to sit in their laps, sitting on stools, trying to eat off their plates, and it’s a little difficult in recognizing what’s legitimate and not legitimate.”
Smith apologized and said Keech and Nicco are welcome back and that she’ll give Keech a burger and beer on the house. In the meantime, she said she’s training staff to tell the difference between a service dog and a support dog.
Keech said he accepts the apology but doesn’t buy that anyone would mistake his dog for a support animal.
“I’m walking with my white cane, which is standard for the blind, and I’ve got the dog, which has the harness with, ‘Please do not pet me, I’m working,'” Keech said. “I’m wearing sunglasses and a hat in the building. What do you think?”