More customers have contacted Global News alleging discriminatory policies at a Toronto café that allows patrons to mix with cats.
Global News first reported on Thursday that teenager Jacob Trossman was denied service because of his wheelchair. Trossman has a neurological disorder and relies on a wheelchair to get around.
When his family took him to the Meow Cat Café on Mount Pleasant Road, they were told the only way he could come inside is if he got out of his wheelchair.
Karen Gilmour said her 97-year-old mother received the same treatment from the café last weekend, but this time because she uses a walker.
“The person who worked there prevented us from café, saying, ‘No, we couldn’t go because of the walker,’” Gilmour said.
She said the café owners told her the policy was in place after an incident with a walker had injured a cat. Gilmour said the café owner then accused her of being uncaring towards cats.
Her mother Merle Gilmour said this is the first time she has experienced this treatment in the 10 years she has used a walker.
“It doesn’t make you feel any good,” she said.
“You’re doing the best you can and someone says, ‘Sorry, you can’t come in.’”
Karen Gilmour said the café owners told her they had permission from the government to disallow walkers. Jacob Trossman’s mother said she was told the same thing but the policy included wheelchairs.
On Thursday, Meow Cat Café co-owner Erica Yun told Global News she never said she had a government permit, but claimed police told her she could deny service to any customer.
Yun repeatedly stated the policy of not allowing wheelchairs indoors was to protect her cats. Yun said on Thursday that in the past a cat was injured by a patron in a wheelchair, which is why the policy exists.
She also said customers with disabilities had been allowed indoors before without incident, but only when they had a helper carry them indoors.
Lawyer and accessibility advocate David Lapofsky said under the Ontario Disability Act, restaurants are obligated to provide accessible customer service for customers with disabilities.
“The same way you can’t have a sign that says a policy of no women allowed or Jews allowed or black people allowed, obviously the same goes for people with disability,” he said.
Outside the café, customer Ronnie Vass said he witnessed an incident earlier Friday with a customer in a wheelchair. Vass said a man in a wheelchair was allowed in the cafe but was told to remain in one place by the café owners. When he protested, Vass said another customer stuck up for him.
Vass said the café owners ignored them after that.
“They just took the cats away and everyone just left,” he said.
“No one wants to be in an establishment that’s going to turn away people just because of a disability.”
Karen Gilmour said she was considering filing a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, but the last thing she wants is to get stuck in a drawn out process.
“The only remedy I want is that this cafe do what they have to do by law,” Gilmour said. “Which is not deny service to people who are disabled in any way, shape, or form.”
Global News attempted another interview with the owners of Meow Cat Café on Friday. When a crew approached the establishment, the owners locked the door and closed the café.
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