MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Mid-South woman said her service dog was denied access to a downtown restaurant, violating federal law.
Emmie Brookins said the manager at the Bluefin sushi restaurant on Main Street didn't allow her service dog to come inside the restaurant with her, making them eat outside instead.
Brookins relies on her service dog Levi for tasks she struggles with like opening doors, turning off lights, and picking up items she drops.
"He helps me do the little things that you wouldn't think much about," Brookins said.
Brookins was in a car accident in 2011 that left her disabled. She said on Friday when she and her friend tried to bring Levi inside Bluefin for lunch, the manager wouldn't let Levi inside.
"He continued to say over and over again, no pets allowed, no pets allowed, even when I said he's a service animal," Brookins said.
Brookins said the owner did eventually seat them outside, where she posted a photo to Facebook, describing what happened. That post has been shared more than 1,100 times.
According to the American Disabilities Act, "The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go."
"I felt very discriminated against," Brookins said.
However, manager James Woo said it's all just a misunderstanding.
"Please understand me, I'm very sorry," Woo said. "There's a miscommunication. Unfortunately, sometimes my English is not perfect."
Woo said he tried to tell Brookins to use the main door to the building and use the wheelchair access elevator because there are stairs in the restaurant.
He claims he never intended to deny them access inside.
"That frustrates me because he never offered any of that," Brookins said.
Brookins said she doesn't want Bluefin to get punished for what she claims happened -- she wants others to learn from this.
"People don't need to be put out and felt uncomfortable for something they have their right to do," Brookins said.
Woo said if Brookins would like to come back to Bluefin, he would gladly welcome both her and Levi inside.