A Philadelphia man with muscular dystrophy says a Chicago bartender unfairly singled him out and refused to serve him alcohol because he is in a wheelchair.
Jimmy Curran and his friend Ed Doyle told WFLD News in a videotaped interview (shown below) that they chose to speak out about the incident because the bartender’s behavior is indicative of a larger societal problem.
Doyle, who used his cellphone to record Wednesday’s interaction with the bartender at Chris’ North Land Tavern, said he couldn’t believe the bartender refused to serve Curran, his friend and business partner.
“I turned to Jimmy, asked him what he would want to drink, and she immediately said no, there's no way I'm serving him,” he said. “And we were both just kinda in shock. We've never had something like that happen to us before.”
In portions of the cellphone video, aired by WFLD, the bartender can be seen and heard refusing service.
“If he gonna pass out, who's gonna be responsible, you or me?” the bartender asks at one point.
“You can say that about anybody,” Doyle can be heard to say in response.
“He's not sick, he's just disabled,” Doyle is heard telling the bartender at another point in the video.
Curran and Doyle said they were in Chicago last Wednesday for an expo and were promoting their clothing company, disABLE.
According to the clothing company’s website, the brand was “created to combat the misconception that a person’s disability ‘disables’ them.”
“We inspire people to disable their limits and live their dream. In addition, to help enable individuals disable their limits, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to charitable organizations working toward the same goal,” reads the company’s mission statement.
Curran said he is not interested in filing a lawsuit or a discrimination complaint.
“And I think this is a clear cut example of how it really is a societal issue, that there are people out there who are ignorant of what it means to have a disability,” Curran told WFLD.
The bartender told WFLD that Curran looked sick and could not talk and that she was uncomfortable serving him alcohol. She also said the two men, who are both in their mid 20s, refused to provide ID, though both men deny this.
The bar’s owner, Chris Gramatis, also spoke to WFLD and defended his employee’s decision to refuse service.
Under Illinois law, bars and bartenders can be held legally responsible for serving alcohol to someone who is in no condition to drink.
Gramatis said he didn’t think there was anything the bartender could have done differently.
“I don't think so and as far as I'm concerned, I would have wanted her to do it exactly the way she did it,” he said.
Doyle said he and Curran are not seeking retribution, just trying to highlight a real issue.
“What we would rather do than penalize this one specific business or try to get one specific person in trouble, we realize it's a societal problem, and we want to bring light to the issue,” he said.
Photo Credit: Screen shot from YouTube, WFLD News