What should’ve been a pleasant celebration of Veteran’s Day weekend ended in frustration when a Michigan bar denied entry to a Marine and his service dog.
According to Jerome Smith, a four-year veteran of the Iraq War, he attempted to enter Holiday Bar in Grand Rapids, Mich., with some friends and his service dog, but the manager told him and his dog to leave, Fox17 reported.
“Walked in the front door of the Holiday [Bar]. I don’t know, maybe made it in there for about 60 seconds before the manager asked me to leave,” Smith said.
The rude welcome was especially frustrating for the Marine, who was out to celebrate the 242nd birthday of his branch of service.
“How would it make you or anybody else feel?” Smith said. “You know, you’re just hanging out with your friends, and you get singled out.”
Smith noted that his beef with the bar isn’t about their treatment of veterans, but rather, “It’s about service dogs.”
Smith was with his service dog Jo-Jo, whom he uses to manage post-traumatic stress disorder from his years of service. He told Fox17 that bar management gave the excuse that the bar was too crowded for Jo-Jo, but he added, “I mentioned that it’s not [the bar’s] call to make.”
He continued, “We are a highly trained team. We’ve gone through extensive training.”
Holiday Bar’s actions were a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which says, “Even if [a] business or public program has a ‘no pets’ policy, it may not deny entry to a person with a service animal.”
According to Community Outreach Manager Deb Davis from Paws with a Cause — which seeks to educate businesses and people about laws regarding service dogs — businesses that violate the ADA are at risk for civil suits or cases with the Department of Justice.
“I do know that in my 20 years experience in this industry, that it can be very rattling to go through this type of an instance,” Davis said to FOX17.
Since the incident went public, Holiday Bar issued an apology on its Facebook page and pledged to donate 100 percent of their Nov. 12 sales to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.
The post read, in part:
We had a very unsettling incident late Friday evening at our establishment that we are ashamed of and very sorry for. Some of you may have heard bits and pieces and or have been made aware of this. Although the decisions that were that night were made out of concern for all involved, it is clear that the wrong decisions were made. For this we are deeply sorry, we know we can’t change what happened but are hopeful we can learn from this. We employ men of armed services, both active and ex, and have nothing but upmost respect and admiration for them and all that serve.
On behalf of all at the holiday Bar we would like to express our deepest apologies for all the pain this has caused.
Smith said that he might be willing to ignore his option to file a civil suit against the bar if they would sponsor a service dog, Fox 17 reported.
As of this writing, Smith hadn’t heard back.