A TOWN centre restaurant has apologised after a partially-sighted woman was refused entry in front of her family because she had a guide dog.
Linda Hay visited Darlington's Uno Momento restaurant last Sunday with five family members and her guide dog, Kitty.
Ms Hay said: “We went there for a meal about 4.30pm. It wasn’t packed or anything.
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“The chap came out and said no dogs allowed. I told him it was a guide dog and he couldn’t do that.”
Despite explaining her guide dog was legally allowed inside the restaurant, Ms Hay was still not given a seat.
“He said it makes no difference," she said. "He said it has got hair and you’re not getting in.”
The way she was treated was disappointing and left her feeling embarrassed, she said.
She added: “I was so incensed we just went home.
"It’s not like the dogs do anything. They just sit there quietly.
“I’ve never experienced it anywhere else. Other places couldn’t be more accommodating.”
Manager Cetin Odabasi said he had personally apologised to Ms Hay, which she accepted, and the restaurant had made a £100 donation to the British Guide Dogs Association.
He said the incident was a mistake made by junior staff and Ms Hay and Kitty would be welcome back to the restaurant any time.
“I wasn’t working there on the night and this is just a misunderstanding," he said.
“Normally we would’ve welcomed her in. In five years we have never had this problem.
“We have guide dogs in here two or three times a week and we always look after them. We give them water and things like that."
He added: “We feel very, very badly about this. It was a mistake by a waiter who is just a young lad.”
Ms Hay’s nephew-in-law, James Pitcher, said the incident had "smashed" her confidence.
He said: “I know how tough she’s found it recently. She’s really been struggling.
“As soon as I heard I knew this was going to knock her confidence.”
By refusing entry to Ms Hay, Uno Momento potentially violated the 2010 Equality Act.
The Equality Act said reasonable adjustments needed to be made to accommodate people with disabilities, such as restaurants allowing guide dogs inside.
A spokeswoman for the British Guide Dog Society said: “She’s entitled to take her dog into the restaurant under the Equality Act.
“Someone with a disability should not be treated differently.”