John Gamble and his guide dog, Heidi were turned away from two Toowoomba restaurants. November 2017
John Gamble and his guide dog, Heidi were turned away from two Toowoomba restaurants. November 2017 Bev Lacey

Man with guide dog says restaurants turned him away

A MAN with disabilities who claims he was turned away from two restaurants in one night because he was with his guide dog says the experience made him feel discriminated against and unwelcome.

John Gamble is visually impaired and is accompanied by his guide dog, Heidi.

This past Friday night he was with two friends, Heather and Andrew Smith, when they asked to be seated at a table indoors at Cafe 63 at Eastville.

Mr Gamble and the Smiths say they were refused service.

"At first the waitress lowered her voice and said it might offend other diners," Mr Gamble said.

When questioned, "she went even quieter and said that the owners had given directions not to let the dog inside."

Mr Gamble said he usually carries a card which spells out his legal rights when accompanied by Heidi but that he didn't have these with him at the time.

"I probably should have fought for my rights but we were exhausted," Mr Gamble said.

"It was a night when we didn't want a confrontation."

John Gamble and his guide dog, Heidi.
John Gamble and his guide dog, Heidi. Bev Lacey

The Smiths and Mr Gamble then went to Qi'Lin restaurant in the Hooper Centre where they say a similar experience unfolded.

This time, Mrs Smith and Mr Gamble waited outside with Heidi while Mr Smith went inside to secure a table.

"A waitress ... said, 'Yes, that's fine no problem' and then the owner came across and ... asked if we had a reservation," Mrs Smith said. When they answered that they did not, they were told all tables at the a la carte and buffet sections were booked and were directed to a table outside.

They declined this offer because the night was too cold.

Mr Gamble and the Smiths do not believe all tables at Qi'Lin were reserved.

Mrs Smith was shocked by the events.

"We've never had any issues before," she said.

Haoyang Wang, owner of Cafe 63 Eastville, regretted the "unfortunate situation".

"Our training has let both the potential customer and our staff down.

"The staff member was not aware that guide dogs and other support dogs are not restricted by the food regulations.

"We have immediately instigated an information release across all of our locations.

"We would love the opportunity to apologise in person."

Digi subs The Chronicle
Digi subs The Chronicle Contributed

Qi'Lin owner Annette Cheung disputed Mr Gamble and the Smiths' version of events.

She said the trio and Heidi came at a busy time when they could not be accommodated inside; she provided The Chronicle with several receipts as evidence of the restaurant's workload.

"We have no problem at all (with disabled patrons) and I understand we can't discriminate and refuse service. I instantly offered them a table outside," she said.

Mr Gamble has contacted the Queensland Disability Services Commissioner, Guide Dogs Queensland and Member for Groom John McVeigh about the incidents on Friday night but is sceptical anti-discrimination laws will be enforced.

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