Uptown restaurateur says accessibility improvements not easy
The owner of a popular uptown restaurant that is inaccessible to wheelchair users says it would be too expensive to add permanent accessibility features like a wheelchair ramp and an automatic door opener.
Nick & Nat's Uptown 21, located at 21 King Street North, Waterloo, has a six-inch step up to its front entrance that makes it inaccessible.
Owner Nick Benninger, responding to a recent accessibility audit that found 43 businesses — including his own — had failed a so-called accessibility audit of 100 Waterloo businesses, told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris on Friday he hasn't pursued a permanent ramp because of logistics and money.
The establishment seats just fewer than 60 guests in approximately 2,000 square feet. The restaurant is a narrow space in an old building.
"To put in a legitimate ramp we would lose a significant portion of our dining room," Benninger said.
"We'd face the issue of having to update our washrooms too. Our washrooms aren't considered accessible, and they don't have to be, providing our front step isn't accessible."
Installing an accessible front entrance would then require accessibility feature changes to the washrooms, Benninger said.
However, Benninger has a solution.
"Recently we have purchased a portable ramp," he said, adding in the past restaurant staff have had to help patrons who use wheelchairs navigate the step, or would-be guests "simply haven't been able to come in."
Since the change was made, the conductor of the accessibility audit gave the restaurant an A grade, saying access had improved.
While Benninger has no plans to move the restaurant to a new location, if it were to move, he has a wish list in mind.
The list includes outdoor space for a patio, an herb garden and more accessibility building features, "whether that means having a parking lot that people don't have to walk as far to get to the front door, or having a ramp or a fully accessible washroom," said Benninger.
"We're in the business of making money, and the more people we can appeal to the better. From a sort of greedy capitalist kind of way, we have no other interest than getting as many people in as possible."