Upset Couple and guide dog refused entry to town venue
AN upmarket Cheltenham food and drink venue has been criticised for twice refusing to allow a couple entry into its premises because it had a dog with them.
James Brittain and his girlfriend Amber Boodt were angry about being turned away from No. 131, in the Promenade, because they had Izma with them - a 15-month-old Labrador Retriever Cross they are helping to train as a guide dog.
James said she was in a harness with an orange hi-visibility strip on her lead that had ‘Guide dog in training’ on it.
The 26-year-old was with Amber and her mother and her step father.
They went to the popular hotel and restaurant, which also has a bar called Crazy 8s, to have a drink just before 8.30pm on Saturday.
James and Amber are from Gloucester but moved to live in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire in April.
They got involved with training Izma, who is one of the dogs from the Guide Dogs National Breeding Centre that is based in the town.
Writing on his Facebook page, James said: “Hugely disappointed to have just been turned away from one of our preferred places in Cheltenham, No. 131 & Crazy 8s, because there was a training Guide Dog in our group. They physically blocked us from entering.
“What’s more shocking was that when we challenged the duty manager and bouncers, we were told it was “group policy”, that they saw no difference between a regular dog and a Guide Dog “because it could offend customers”. They also asked if we had tried to get the dog into multiple places, chancing our luck.
“It left the whole group feeling pretty embarrassed, upset and angry, so we decided just to come home.
“But we’re fortunate enough to just be training a guide dog. I can’t imagine how somebody with genuinely limited sight would feel after an incident like this.
“Refusing access to a Guide Dog is discrimination and it’s illegal.”
James, a former pupil at Rendcomb College near Cirencester, said the couple went back to No. 131 to lodge a formal complaint about what happened.
But he said staff again refused to allow them to come in with Izma.
Amber said she and James had been taking the dog out and about so she would get used to being in public places, for when she is placed with a blind or visually impaired person.
She said Izma was trained by the centre in the daytime and she and her fiance provided supplementary training in the evenings and at weekends.
She added: “I can’t imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t see properly, you planned to go out and you were blocked.
“Can you imagine how your confidence would be knocked?”
She said she and James had written to the relevant government minister, Sarah Newton, and Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk, to highlight the problem they had.
Amber, who went to Ribston Hall High School in Gloucester, said an apology from No. 131 would not be enough.
She wanted it to make a donation to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
She said: “They behaved appallingly.”
In a statement, The Lucky Onion group, which is owned by Superdry founder Julian Dunkerton and runs No. 131, said: “Concerned for animal welfare, we at The Lucky Onion believe that no dog should be subjected to the loud music/bar at Crazy Eights, No 131.
“At the time of the visit yesterday, management were led to believe that this was a guide dog in training and had no human responsibilities.
“Should this not have been the case, we sincerely apologise.
“Going forward, we will initiate a strict review of all policies and ensure staff are reminded of the guide dog and assistance dog owners’ important rights under the Equality Act.”
James Brittain with Izma, a Labrador Retriever Cross being trained as a guide dog