Bar rejects disabled man

EMMA WHITTAKER
Last updated 10:54 27/03/2013
David Bruce
MISLEADING APPEARANCE: David Bruce is shocked he was kicked out of a central city bar because staff mistook his disability for drunkenness

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The owner of a bar that evicted a physically disabled man because staff mistakenly thought he was drunk is citing tough laws as a reason for the mishap.

David Bruce has cerebral palsy.

Because of the condition he is reliant on an electric wheelchair and has a significant speech impairment.

On his way to an Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra concert on February 28 he stopped at Queen St's QF Tavern for dinner.

When he tried to order bar staff turned him away.

Perplexed, Bruce tried to question the refusal.

He was told he had to leave because he was "on pills" and was escorted outside.

"I was really embarrassed. It's never happened to me before," the Epsom resident says.

QF Tavern owner Ken Hix says the bartender thought Bruce was drunk.

"I hound my staff about the consequences of serving intoxicated and drugged people," he says.

"I drill it into them that if you have any doubts about someone don't serve them.

"The police are coming down really hard on us. I can't afford to lose my business by serving someone who is drunk.

"In this environment I can't slam her [the bartender]."

Mr Hix says the bar has a lot of disabled patrons and it is not his company's policy to turn them away. He has since apologised to Mr Bruce.

He says the staff member who served Bruce has English as a second language and this probably added to the confusion.

"I am sorry this has happened, it's terrible, but it was a mistake. She had to make a call and in this case she has made the wrong one," he says.

Bruce says he only wanted an apology and is satisfied with knowing he is welcome back.

His long-time friend Graham Dawson says the explanation is ridiculous.

"It just makes me angry.

"I can see how someone might think he was drunk, but to refuse someone in a wheelchair a drink based on an assumption is wrong.

"Most places we go to go out of their way to accommodate him," he says.

Diversity Works executive director Philip Patston says this isn't the first time he's heard of an incident like this.

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- Central Leader

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