Blind man denied access to DeKalb-area restaurant

By Holly Schubert

A legally blind DeKalb resident was denied access to a local restaurant because an employee would not allow him to enter with his seeing eye dog.

A chef at The Red Apple Restaurant, 1039 W. Hillcrest Drive (formerly Around the Clock), said the business will continue to refuse service to persons accompanied by animals, including seeing eye dogs.

Gerardo Diaz, 926 Greenbrier Road Apt. 10, filed a police report after he was denied admission Tuesday.

Diaz said he and his attorney are awaiting further instructions from the DeKalb Human Relations Board on whether the incident can be “pursued” further than the report.

Diaz said a man approached him while waiting to be seated by a hostess at the restaurant. Diaz said the man told him he could not seat Diaz because his dog was in violation of public health codes.

The food service sanitation ordinance exempts guide dogs for the blind and patrol dogs accompanying police officers or security guards from ordinances prohibiting animals in restaurants, said Bob Drake, director of environmental health for the DeKalb County Health Department.

Drake said the exemption ordinance permits restaurants to serve blind people accompanied by guard dogs, but the ordinance does not require restaurants to do so.

Red Apple Chef Brian Ashiku said he was sorry the incident happened and that his employees like to be pleasant to everyone. However, he will continue to deny access to people with any animals because of the concern for cleanliness.

Ashiku said he does not know how customers will feel seeing an animal in the restaurant and if they would come back again. He said he would not like to see a dog in a restaurant he was eating in, even if it was a seeing eye dog.

“I have never had this problem in any restaurant in DeKalb,” Diaz said.

Diaz was pronounced innocent in September 1987 of voluntary manslaughter for the July 22, 1986 fatal shooting of Robert Lurz. Diaz shot Lurz with a rifle while Lurz attempted to enter Diaz’s greek row apartment.