Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has reached a settlement agreement with Lake Shore Lounge, Inc., doing business as Down the Hatch restaurant in Brookfield, to resolve allegations that the restaurant was not operating in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”).
The settlement agreement resolves an ADA complaint filed by an individual with disabilities alleging that Down the Hatch required the removal of a service animal from the restaurant as a condition of service. An additional complaint alleged that the restrooms and parking spaces were inaccessible to individuals with physical disabilities.
As a result of the settlement agreement, the restaurant is in the process of posting signage indicating “Service Animals Welcome,” implementing a “Service Animal Policy,” which includes the types of legally permissible inquiries employees may make of a customer who enters the restaurant with a service animal, and training employees regarding the policy. Down the Hatch has also made a compensation payment to the complainant as required by the agreement. In addition, Down the Hatch agreed to make significant improvements that will increase accessibility to restrooms and parking spaces on the premises.
Under federal law, private entities that own or operate places of “public accommodation,” including restaurants, are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of disability. The ADA authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate complaints and undertake periodic reviews of compliance of covered entities. The Justice Department is also authorized to commence a civil lawsuit in federal court in any case that involves a pattern or practice of discrimination or that raises issues of general public importance, and to seek injunctive relief, monetary damages, and civil penalties.
U.S. Attorney Avery noted that the owner of Down the Hatch has worked cooperatively with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to promptly address the ADA issues without litigation.
“We enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that individuals are able to access and enjoy the state’s restaurants, service establishments, retail stores and other places of public accommodation,” said U.S. Attorney Avery. “The ADA requires businesses to appropriately serve the diverse populations of patrons who live, work, and visit Connecticut. We appreciate Down the Hatch’s commitment to increasing access to its restaurant for individuals with disabilities who require service animal assistance and those with mobility challenges.”
Any member of the public who wishes to file a complaint alleging that any place of public accommodation or public entity in Connecticut is not accessible to persons with disabilities may contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office at 203-821-3700.
Additional information about the ADA can be found at www.ada.gov, or by calling the Justice Department’s toll-free information line at (800) 514-0301 and (800) 514-0383 (TTY). More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt.
This matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William M. Brown, Jr. and Stewart Dearing of the District of Connecticut in coordination with the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.