Stephen Vallance, 44, says he was refused entry to the Star Cafe in South East London because he had a service animal with him on April 10 – the cafe has since doubled down and refused to apologize
Image: Guide Dogs / SWNS)
A blind man claims he was turned away from a cafe because his guide dog was too “large and fluffy.”
Stephen Vallance, 44, says he was refused entry to the Star Cafe in South East London because he had a service animal with him on April 10.
Stephen who suffers from learning difficulties and is registered blind said he is “disgusted and shocked” at what happened.
The cafe has since doubled down on its position and has refused to apologise, despite banning guide dog owners from businesses being against the law.
Charity Guide Dogs said it is “completely unacceptable and illegal” for a business or service to refuse entry to a customer with a guide dog.
Guide Dogs / SWNS)
Guide Dogs / SWNS)
A member of staff said Stephen was not allowed to sit down inside because Wills, his Alsatian Labrador cross, was “large and fluffy.”
Ann Vallance, Stephen’s mum, said they were not allowed to have breakfast at the cafe, despite explaining Wills is a working dog displaying a fluorescent harness and lead.
A couple of days later Stephen returned with a guide dog trainer and was again turned away.
He said: “I [the cafe owner] is an arrogant pig. I think he’s got an attitude problem. I think he doesn’t like dogs, but it’s not fair on blind people.
“What he is saying is rubbish, we’ve been into other cafes, pubs, shops. Wills is a normal size dog.”
Ann also claimed the same cafe previously turned Stephen when he was with his former guide dog, Linton.
Linton sadly died during the pandemic and Stephen had to wait two years before getting a new one.
She said: “I told the gentleman that Wills was a working dog, and my son is blind.
“But he insisted that it’s against his policy to have the dog in the café. It’s disgusting, I’m absolutely furious.
“Stephen has a lot of health issues going on and every other cafe has been amazing – it is just this one.
“We had the same issue there a couple of years back when Stephen had Linton – a black Labrador who was also a guide dog.
“A staff member told us to ‘stop the dog from shaking’, which we couldn’t do, and then he barred us from the café.
“Linton died through the pandemic, and we had to wait two years for a new guide dog.”
Ann said the cafe owner offered them a seat outside, but Stephen can’t sit in the cold because he’s recently had a kidney transplant.
She added: “Wills is still in training, but he acts as the eyes for Stephen.
“Stephen had a transplant a few years back, so he feels the cold a lot more than others. This should have never happened.”
Staff at the cafe claimed there was not enough room for the three of them.
A spokesman said: “You know, I’ve known them [Ann and Stephen] for years. The guide dog is too large and fluffy.
“The people in the coffee shop do not like it, so we lose customers. She appeared the other day with the large dog but there was no room.
“She doesn’t understand – she just thinks because there’s a guide dog, they can go anywhere they want and sit anywhere they like, but it doesn’t work that way.
“We’ve got tables and chairs outside, and she doesn’t want that. That’s the reason why I won’t let them in again.”
Charity Guide Dogs slammed the cafe’s actions as “unacceptable”, “illegal” and “extremely disappointing”.
Clive Wood, lead regional policy and campaigns manager at Guide Dogs, said: “It’s completely unacceptable that Stephen and his mother Ann were put in this position.
“It’s utterly shocking an access refusal took place even after Stephen and Ann explained Wills was a working guide dog.
“All blind and partially sighted people deserve to be able to live their lives the way they want, and feel confident, independent and supported in the world.
“It is illegal for a business or service to refuse entry to a customer with a guide dog, yet, sadly, it happens all too often.
“Our research shows that three-quarters of guide dog owners have experienced access refusals, and this is a clear form of discrimination.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.