RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A blind N.C. State PhD candidate says a Cary restaurant refused to serve him because of his guide dog.
Sean Mealin spends his time coming up with new ways to use technology to train dogs, which is why he wanted to take this opportunity to educate those who might not understand service animals.
Mealin travels the world presenting his research, but he never travels alone.
“I was born with low vision due to a genetic condition,” Mealin said. “When I was in high school it went from having some vision, maybe being able to sit six inches from the TV screen and see something, to absolutely nothing.”
He always has Simba by his side.
“A guide dog like Simba is trained to find doors or a seat or an elevator or stairs,” Mealin said. “So, as I started traveling more Simba always comes with me.”
On Wednesday, Mealin and his friend decided to grab lunch on their break at Himalayan Range Nepali Restaurant in Cary, but things took a turn once the hostess noticed Simba.
“She went to the back of the restaurant and a few minutes later came back and said, ‘My manager says no dogs are allowed.’”
Mealin says he explained multiple times that laws like the American Disabilities Act give Simba a legal right to be at the restaurant with him.
“I said, ‘Can you have your manager come out? I’d like to talk to him,’ and she said, ‘No, he’s busy,’ and at the time it didn’t seem like the restaurant was busy. After checking with my friend afterwards we were the only customers in there. So finally, I said, ‘Just to be absolutely clear, you are refusing me service because I have a guide dog with me?’ and she said ‘Yes.’”
Mealin says he was embarrassed.
“I was there with a very good friend, so I know she’s not judging of anything, but still it’s embarrassing that something that I rely on that’s so important to me is the reason that she and I couldn’t have lunch together at that particular restaurant.”
So WNCN went to the restaurant to find out why Mealin and Simba weren’t welcome. We spoke with the manager who says many of his employees don’t speak English well and that his hostess is afraid of dogs.
“Sorry about that. I tell them. I explain, okay,” said Amear Karki, Manager at Himalayan Range Nepali Restaurant.
Mealin says he just wants to spread awareness about the importance of service dogs.
“As long as people are willing to learn and be educated,” Mealin said. “My main thing that I went public with this and asking people for advice is because I wanted to find out the best way to educate the restaurant manager. I just want future people not to go through what I’ve gone through.”