News and Press Releases

Settlement of US v. Shanghai Cottage At Fairhope, Inc. And Xian Chu Ou

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 14, 2012

"After attending worship service on Sunday, August 14, 2011, Corey Fancher, who is blind, was refused dining service at a Fairhope restaurant when accompanied by his service dog. Even after explaining to the hostess that he was blind and that his dog was not a pet but his service dog, he was told to leave the premises," said Kenyen R. Brown, U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.

The restaurant known as Shanghai Cottage at Fairhope, Inc. and its owner Mr. Xian Chu Ou have entered into a Settlement Agreement with the United States following an investigation conducted by the U. S. Attorney’s Office and the U. S. Department of Justice, which concluded that Mr. Fancher had been denied his civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act when he was refused service and not allowed to eat in the restaurant.

"Although some restaurant owners or employees mistakenly believe the Health Department Laws and Regulations prohibit service animals from accompanying their owners, that belief is clearly incorrect and they are sadly mistaken, " continued U. S. Attorney Brown. "The Health Code in Alabama clearly exempts service animals from the ban on customers bringing animals into a restaurant. More importantly, as a matter of protected civil rights the Americans with Disabilities Act clearly provides that a Title III public accommodation, such as a restaurant, may not discriminate against persons with disabilities who rely on service animals to assist them. It is the restaurant owner’s responsibility to properly train staff in this regard to prevent such discrimination, embarrassment and humiliation.”

Mr. Fancher declined monetary compensation from the restaurant, which is authorized when the Department of Justice brings an investigation and issues a charge of discrimination. He did so because his interest was in correcting behavior at restaurants (and other Title III public accommodations) so that other blind persons will not be discriminated against when they seek to enjoy the same experiences as non-disabled persons. Mr. Fancher provided Mr. Xian Chu Ou the contact information for Guiding Eyes for the Blind (the facility Mr. Fancher attended for training with his assistance dog) in the event Shanghai Cottage or Mr. Xian Chu Ou wished to voluntarily help other blind persons.

Mr. Xian Chu Ou, who is also associated with another Fairhope restaurant known as Master Joe's, cooperated in the investigation and recently apologized to Mr. Fancher for his restaurant’s refusing dining service.

According to the terms of the Settlement, a civil penalty has been paid to the United States, the restaurant's owners and employees (now and in the future) must undergo specific training regarding customers with service animals, a sign has been posted on the exterior entrance of the business alerting patrons that persons accompanied by their service animals will be received; and the Settlement also prohibits future discrimination at the restaurant.

"We hope no other citizen in the Southern District of Alabama---or anywhere for that matter--- will experience this kind of discrimination again," concluded Mr. Brown. "Persons with disabilities are entitled to enjoy the same dining, entertainment, and lodging experiences as those without disabilities. Ironically, just a few months before Mr. Fancher was discriminated against by Shanghai Cottage and Mr. Xian Chu Ou, our office sponsored a free, full-day seminar entitled ‘Accessibility and Disability Rights’ aimed at helping hotel, restaurant, retail shop owners, builders, architects, social workers and lawyers understand the ADA’s laws and regulations.”

In conclusion, U. S. Attorney Brown stated, “the Americans with Disabilities Act will be fully enforced in this District, but of course it is far better that no discrimination against persons with disabilities occur in the first place. If anyone has experienced similar conduct or other discriminatory actions based on their disability— including barriers to access to public accommodations, effective communications with deaf or blind, etc.— please contact Assistant United States Attorney Gary Alan Moore at 251.441.5845 or email at gary.moore2@usdoj.gov ."

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