Nicola O’Brian, 50, says she was ‘so embarrassed’ she wanted the floor to ‘open up underneath her’ (Picture: Nicola O’Brian/Google)
A disabled woman claims she was refused a drink at a bar for using a mobility scooter – but the pub has angrily denied the accusations, insisting it was a ‘health and safety hazard’.
Nicola O’Brian, 50, from Frinton-on-Sea in Essex, says she felt ‘humiliated’ when staff at The Wolf Inn refused to take her order unless she left her scooter outside.
The incident has been recorded as a ‘hate crime’ by police who say the local licensing authority has been informed.
Bosses at The Wolf Inn say Nicola could have had table service if she left her scooter outside as they have a ‘low threshold to allow wheelchair user easy access’.
They claim footage showing the mum-of-three getting off the scooter to climb over steps and into the venue ‘proves she can walk unaided’.
Nicola has used a wheelchair since her 20s as she has lymphedema, a condition that causes swelling as a result of a build-up of lymph fluid in the body.
She said she ‘wasn’t going to let the steps into the pub stop her’ as she visited The Wolf Inn in Oulton Broad, Suffolk.
Husband Mark helped her to ‘hike the scooter over them’ before she walked a few steps while leaning on it on September 4.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk, Nicola said: ‘I sat back down and went on my scooter to the bar and this chap stood there and said “you’re going to have to take that outside”.
‘I looked around and said, “What outside?” He went “Your scooter, you can’t have that in here”. And I’m like, “really? Okay, why not?” He said “It’s health and safety, this is too small a bar to have them in”.’
Nicola says she told the barman there was ‘more than enough space’ as she had entered the pub without hitting furniture, adding that she only wanted to stay for one drink.
She felt ‘horrifically embarrassed’ when he allegedly replied: ‘You need to go outside and wait until somebody comes out and serves you.’
Nicola says she felt ‘humiliated’ during the incident (Picture: Nicola O’Brian)
The incident happened at The Wolf Inn in Oulton Broad, Suffolk (Picture: Google Maps)
She said: ‘I’m quite a strong person and I just wanted the floor to open up underneath me because it was embarrassing.’
After telling staff the move was ‘discriminatory’, Nicola began filming and was told ‘you can stay, but your scooter has got to go outside’.
She said: ‘Some days, I could park it outside, but other days I can’t. Saturday was a day that I couldn’t.’
‘I was in a lot of pain. You can’t discriminate by judging what type of mobility aids somebody has.’
She added: ‘People like myself, we face this kind of discrimination all the time so it just gets to a point where you have to stand up and be counted.
‘Today, I’m prepared to stand up and say “you were wrong. You should apologise. You shouldn’t make excuses, and I deserve better and so does anybody else in the same situation”.’
However, bosses at The Wolf Inn say the staff member did not ask the customer to leave.
In a statement on Facebook, they said: ‘We have a low threshold to allow wheelchair user easy access to our public area. This low threshold doesn’t allow access of outdoor use mobility scooters.
‘The customer got off the mobility scooter and physically lifted the scooter into The Wolf Inn, and then walked through the bar and got on.
‘Our staff member acknowledged the fact that the customer could walk unaided and politely asked her if she would leave the scooter outside.
‘He advised ‘”we will make you comfortable and give you table service for your duration whilst in the premises”.
Bosses at The Wolf Inn say they have ‘low threshold to allow wheelchair user easy access’ (Picture: Nicola O’Brian)
Husband Mark helped Nicola lift the mobility scooter inside (Picture: Nicola O’Brian)
‘The customer then said “you’re throwing a disabled person out” for which our staff member politely replied stating “no, you can stay, but the scooter needs to be parked outside due to our Health and Safety procedures, due to being a small split level pub”.’
Speaking to Metro, they added: ‘The barman asked the lady to leave the scooter outside on the basis of seeing her physically lift the mobility scooter in the building and walk through the bar. Evidence of this is on our Facebook page.
‘The customer was never asked to leave and was offered table service as per our disability access statement.
‘We are also still continuing with some COVID secure measures which were introduced by the Government to ensure the safety of our customers and staff.
‘Our disability access statement is available on our premises to read and on our website for customers to read prior to coming into the establishment.’
A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said: ‘Police received a report of an incident where it was claimed a licensed bar refuse to serve a disabled female and who was using a mobility buggy.
‘Police made enquires and are treating it as a hate incident. This means no formal action will be taken in relation to the matter but it has been recorded by the police and the relevant licensing authority has been informed.
‘We have also engaged with the licence holder and provided them with suitable advice. The complainant has been informed.’
An East Suffolk Council spokesperson said police were dealing with the complaint and they ‘expect all licensees to comply with all equalities legislation’.
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