British Columbia

Blind man says guide dog ordered out of Port Coquitlam restaurant

A man who took his mother out for a birthday dinner says he was refused service because of his guide dog.

Dinakis Mediterranean Grill owner says allegations are false and customer chose to leave

31-year-old Anthony Janolino is blind and uses his guide dog, Vanda. Janolino says he was asked to leave Vanda outside a restaurant during a birthday celebration on Friday night.

A 31-year-old blind Port Coquitlam man says a family dinner at a local restaurant on Friday turned into a humiliating and degrading experience after he was allegedly asked to leave his guide dog outside the restaurant.

Anthony Janolino said the owner at Dinakis Mediterranean Grill in Port Coquitlam initially told the family the dog must be outside because of safety concerns.

"I offered to show him my guide dog card ... There's no reason why there should be safety concerns. My dog is just sitting quietly under my chair. She won't be a problem," said Janolino.

"It's like trying to separate a person from a wheelchair. My dog and I are stuck together."

Reached by phone on Sunday, the owner of the restaurant — Malik Malikzada — initially denied asking Janolino to leave his dog outside, saying the entire situation was a misunderstanding.

"I never said that," said Malikzada. "We know the [guide dog] certification and we have served before."

But in a video recorded by a family member of some of the interaction, Malikzada is seen responding to the family after it tries to explain the dog is essentially acting as Anthony's eyes.

"I said I need to look [out] for the safety of my other customers, sir," said Malikzada in the video.

Blind man asked to leave service dog outside Dinakis restaurant in Port Coquitlam Friday . 2:09

'That is a completely false allegation that never took place'

Janolino then suggests calling the police to talk about the situation.

"Let's call the police then — we can talk about it then. Is that what you want to do? 'Cause I can't stay here [without my dog]"

At this point, another restaurant patron is seen interjecting, saying, "Why are you not serving them?" and Malikzada says, "No no no, I'm not saying that."

Anthony Janolino's brother, Joseph, is then heard saying, "Actually sir, you did say the dog had to stay outside."

In the video, Malikzada then admits he made a mistake. 

"I do apologize for that, madam."

On Monday, when CBC News called to follow up with the video and ask Malik why he would apologize for something he said he didn't do, Malik again, said it was the misunderstanding he was apologizing for.

He also offered a free meal to the family.

 "We never instructed the family to put the dog outside," said Malik. "That is a completely false allegation that never took place." 

Anthony Janolino who is visually impaired is seen with his guide dog Vanda during a graduation ceremony in 2016. (Joseph Janolino)

'I've never been exposed to discrimination like that'

As the interaction in the video continues, Anthony Janolino asks the restaurant owner about whether the dog will be allowed to stay and the owner then says it is fine.

But by then, Janolino said, his sister left the restaurant in tears and the family decided to leave as well.

"I was trained by the guide dog school to deal with these situations, but they didn't train me on how sad and affected my family and I were by this," said Janolino.

"My sister disappeared. She was crying in the car. My mom didn't want to eat there anymore. She was sad as well ... I've never been exposed to discrimination like that around them before."

​When asked about various reviews across social media that support the Janolino family's version of events, the restaurant owner questioned the validity and source.

"How do we know they [the people posting] are not related to them? [Janolino family]," said Malikzada. 

In one complaint that has since been deleted on the Dinakis restaurant's Facebook page, Malikzada responded to a customer by suggesting, "please for everyone out there, do not misuse the disabled peoples' condition to obtain free food. Please, do not stand on their shoulders. They need our help to hold their hand, not hold them down."

Malikzada said that post was not meant to offend the family.

"It's not directly blaming them or accusing them. It's just for the information for other people."

Anthony Janolino and his family are still in shock after they say a restaurant owner asked Anthony to leave his guide dog outside the establishment during a family dinner. (Joseph Janolino)

'The behaviour of the owner is intolerable'

If Malikzada did ask the service dog to be left outside, the Disability Alliance of B.C. says Janolino can file a complaint with the provincial government under the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act or file a human rights complaint.

"It's a complete violation of their dignity," said Jane Dyson, executive director of the Disability Alliance of B.C. 

"He has an absolute right to go into a restaurant with his dog ... for a restaurant in 2016 to question [it] — if he wanted to see the guy's ID that's fair enough but to carry it further is completely unacceptable."

Janolino is in the process of filing a complaint and said he is only doing this to raise awareness for others with disabilities. 

"The behaviour of the owner is intolerable. I think there are consequences for what people do," said Janolino.

"He had so many chances to be educated by me ... He didn't want to be educated."

Were you at this restaurant on Friday night? Email Bal.Brach@cbc.ca or get in touch on Twitter.

About the Author

Bal Brach

@BalBrach

Bal Brach is an award-winning reporter at CBC News Vancouver. She has worked in television, radio and online news across Canada for more than 15 years. Bal's storytelling skills have earned her two Jack Webster Awards. She is also the recipient of regional and national Radio Television Digital News Association awards. Bal can be reached at Bal.Brach@cbc.ca or on social media @BalBrach

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