Removing Customers: When Can A Texas Restaurant Ask A Patron To Leave?


Last week, the Washington Times published a very sad article. It reported that a Texas war veteran was kicked out of the River Side Inn Marina, which is a restaurant in Houston. The story stated that the veteran simply had a service dog that helped him with his post-traumatic stress disorder. For the full story written by Jessica Chasmar, click here.

As we previously posted in the The Top Five Consumer Myths About Restaurant Law (Dec. 2012), there are a finite number of reasons that a restaurant cannot refuse service. These include:

  1. Race;
  2. Religion;
  3. National Origin;
  4. Gender;
  5. Sexual Orientation;
  6. Disability; and
  7. Age (for older citizens, not those under age).

As you may note from the unusual wording above, these are protected classes that disallow discrimination, including asking a restaurant patron to leave. However, a restaurant MAY remove a patron for almost any other reason.

In the story above, the veteran appears to fulfill two different classes – he’s a veteran and he’s disabled. It seems the manager was confused and thought that dogs were only for the visually impaired.

As such, restaurant owners and staff should be careful when removing customers. Failure to consider all of the possibilities within the protected class categories can lead to legal issues. Still, it seems that this restaurant is now suffering more from its bad press than actual legal issues.

An option for restaurants is to have a policy in place ahead of time as to exactly who and for what reasons customers can be asked to leave. Even if the restaurant is owner operated, such a plan would allow the owner to consider issues in advance before making a decision in haste. This was clearly a rash decision – don’t let it cost you or your restaurant.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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