Sacramento’s “Squeeze Inn” hit with ADA suit

by Walter Olson on July 9, 2009

squeezed by a bad lawThe popular eatery, which has been spotlighted by the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”, is famous for being cramped, as its name implies. So here comes the inevitable wheelchair-access suit by a plaintiff represented by serial Northern California ADA-suit filer Jason Singleton. [California Civil Justice, Popehat; restaurant site] More on Singleton’s activities: North Coast Journal cover story, 2001, and May 2008 coverage. Update: restaurant now planning to move.

{ 21 comments }

1 A.W. 07.09.09 at 1:27 pm

so… we should effectively segregate the handicapped from our daily life for no other reason than to be “quirky?”

Look to some extent some segregation is unavoidable when we talk about the handicapped and can even be done for nice reasons. but i am pretty leery of the idea that a resturant should be intentionally impossible for the handicapped to access at all. The segregation should be reduced to the minimum.

Imagine instead a resturant said that “whites only.” would anyone be upset about a suit to put a stop to that? but a company effectively excluding the handicapped? That’s a-okay, apparently.

2 Catlin 07.09.09 at 2:03 pm

Hey AW, does everyone who cant get into the Squeeze Inn also get excluded because there are no more seats left? This woman could have easily called in her order and had it delivered to her outside then ate it at home like many people do. And don’t even try to relate this to racism. Should disabled people sue for not being able to go the top of the Statue of Liberty?

3 Eric 07.09.09 at 3:40 pm

Who are you to tell someone how to run their business? If their business model is so poor, why don’t you open a restaurant serving the same menu next door? Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean nobody else does. If some business owner does not want to cater to a specific demographic, then that gives some one else the opportunity to capitalize and take that demographic. If you don’t like it, don’t eat there.

4 BP 07.09.09 at 3:50 pm

A.W., the restaurant was not intentionally designed to be inaccessible. It’s in an old, small building. The restaurant has handicapped-accessible patio seating. Putting the restaurant into that building created jobs and added value to society. Shutting it down just adds value to Jason Singleton’s net worth. Shutting down the restaurant will not erase Ms. Block’s hurt feelings, and will not result in more dining opportunities for handicapped customers. (It will result in fewer, because now those in wheelchairs will not even be able to order their food to go or sit at the patio).

Unsurprisingly, local media accounts of the story fail to mention that this is Ms. Block’s 3rd ADA lawsuit this year, Mr. Singleton’s history, the restaurant’s previous efforts to make itself more accessible, the issue of serial ADA litigation generally, or the disproportionate impact which the ADA has had on small businesses. Nothing in the newspaper story nor TV reports give this lawsuit any context whatsoever, and it’s a shame.

5 Bill Poser 07.09.09 at 6:54 pm

A.W.,
There’s a big difference between discriminating against people who cannot make use of a theme-restaurant and discriminating on the basis of race. In the former case, there is a reasonable basis for the discrimination, while in the latter the discrimination is arbitrary and nefarious. What if someone wants to have a restaurant in which diners eat while rock-climbing? This discriminates against those not capable of climbing to and staying at the “table” as well as those with a fear of heights. So what? While such a restaurant should not be permitted as, say, the only restaurant at an interstate rest area, which in effect functions as a public service, to which everyone should have access, there is no reason in general not to permit such niche businesses. Should a restaurant that specializes in dairy products be required to offer non-dairy products because some people are lactose-intolerant?

6 MF 07.09.09 at 7:44 pm

A.W., can you say non sequitur?

7 gitarcarver 07.09.09 at 11:35 pm

A.W. is right.

Under all circumstances, disabled people should be treated the same as non-disabled people. Facts that the building is old, there is no space, and shutting it down would be a loss to the community in the form of jobs, taxes, etc shouldn’t matter.

So let’s make sure that everyone is treated the same.

Joe the Lawyer comes in and sits down at the counter and orders a Squeezy burgers (the one with all the steamed / melted cheese.) Because of all the people that have plopped their butts in his seat, the owner can be guaranteed X amount of profit from Joe’s hamburger.

Fast forward to when Ms Singleton comes in and orders the same Squeezy burger. Well, because Squeezy has had to put thousands or maybe hundreads of thousands into making the restaurant “accessable” for her, let her be given a bill for her burger that still guarantees the owner X dollars in profit.

Let’s make sure that all people give back to the owner of the store the same amount of profit on the same items they eat. No “segregating” there at all. The owner gets the same profit no matter whether a person is disabled or not.

“There ya go Ms Singleton….. your total is $189,463 dollars and 27 cents. Tip not included, of course.”

8 PhilG 07.10.09 at 4:37 am

Here’s yet another one, this one out of Stockton California:
http://www.news10.net/news/story.aspx?storyid=62826&catid=2

9 Jim Collins 07.10.09 at 9:16 am

ADA is being carried much too far. Several years ago a local college was given a grant from a local company to fund a computer lab. I was in a drafting class there and was assigned to figure out the layout of the lab. Sadly to say that the college had to turn down the grant and the lab. The grant was specific in the number of workstations that the lab had to have (24) and there was not an open room in the building that was big enough to allow total handicapped access to each and every computer. I worked out a nice layout that had total access to 12 computers, but that was unacceptable. The funny thing here is that the lab was to be in one of the older buildings on campus that had NO wheelchair access, because it was Grandfathered in before ADA. Ironically the college has never had more than 3 or 4 wheelchair students at any given time. Before anybody accuses me of discrimination of the handicapped, let me say two things. One. There are over 100 computers on that campus that are fully accessable by someone in a wheelchair. The IT department even went as far as to set up a network license system for its software so that someone can do their AutoCad work on a computer in the English department. Two. The reason I was asked to do the layout, was that I spent my first year on campus in a wheelchair, due to the knee problem that was responsible for me going back to school in the first place.

Before anyone else says that the restraunt is in the wrong, let me ask one question. If the restraunt had made, say two or three of it’s tables accessable and reserved for people in wheelchairs, do you think that there wouldn’t have been a lawsuit? I doubt it.

10 PJF 07.10.09 at 11:17 am

ADA – yet ANOTHER good-intentioned law taken advantage of by society’s leeches.

11 Richard Nieporent 07.10.09 at 3:08 pm

ADA – yet ANOTHER good-intentioned law taken advantage of by society’s leeches.

Which once again demonstrates the sagacity of the old saying about the road to Hell.

12 A.W. 07.10.09 at 3:22 pm

To the various responses, to the extent they are not redundant. I won’t match names to words. You know what you said and feel free to gang up more.

First, I generally find your attitude wonderful. A man might go to war in Afghanistan, to kill the bastards who attacked us. While there, he gets shot and the bullet lodges in the spine. He is paralyzed when he gets back. And how do we reward his patriotic sacrifice?

Second class citizenship. Constant exclusion. Humiliation. Wow, I can almost hear Lee Greenwood sing about how proud he is to be an American.

For instance, people who are paralyzed often have reduced control of their bodily functions. But why should he be able to go to the restroom like anyone else? So my hypothetical veteran would face the fear of a humiliating lack of control. Nice.

> This woman could have easily called in her order and had it delivered to her outside then ate it at home like many people do.

I think they tried that argument in the Ollie’s pit barbeque case. didn’t work for them either.

> And don’t even try to relate this to racism.

Sure. It’s the exclusion of a whole class of people for an arbitrary reason. What possible similarity could there be to that and racial segregation?

> Who are you to tell someone how to run their business?

Then I suppose you are opposed to anti-racial-discrimination laws, too?

> A.W., the restaurant was not intentionally designed to be inaccessible.

Sure. It never occurred to them that people with handicaps existed or might want to eat their food.

I suppose that’s possible, but in my mind even more horrifying.

> Shutting it down just adds value to Jason Singleton’s net worth.

I find it odd that this is supposedly a popular restaurant that was featured on national TV, but can’t afford to shuffle its booths a little and put in a few grab bars. I mean look, I know in Washington they will spend up to a million dollars on a toilet stall, but in the real world we can do it for a lot cheaper than that.

> [if it is shut down it] will not result in more dining opportunities for handicapped customers.

Actually, even if it came to shutting it down, yes it would. Because people would figure out that the need to cater to everyone. Just as prosecuting a person for murder won’t bring the victim back to life, but might discourage others. (and for the slow, it is just a high level metaphor talking about deterrence. I am not equating failure to accommodate with murder.)

> that this is Ms. Block’s 3rd ADA lawsuit this year, Mr. Singleton’s history,

You its funny, around 1958 I am sure the NAACP’s Ink fund might have been seen as a filing mill.

And let’s concede for the sake of argument that these are evil greedy lawyers and litigants at the bottom of it all. Well, so what of it? They are still doing a public service even if their reasons are not altruistic.

> In the former case, there is a reasonable basis for the discrimination,

There’s a reasonable basis in building the booths too small for anyone. Okay.

> What if someone wants to have a restaurant in which diners eat while rock-climbing?

Well, its good to know we are talking about the real life situations.

> While such a restaurant should not be permitted as, say, the only restaurant at an interstate rest area, which in effect functions as a public service, to which everyone should have access, there is no reason in general not to permit such niche businesses.

Sure and if they hung a sign that said “whites only” that is kosher, too?

> [sarcastically] Under all circumstances, disabled people should be treated the same as non-disabled people.

He is free to plead that it is an undue burden.

> Fast forward to when Ms Singleton comes in and orders the same Squeezy burger. Well, because Squeezy has had to put thousands or maybe hundreads of thousands into making the restaurant “accessable” for her, let her be given a bill for her burger that still guarantees the owner X dollars in profit.

Charging a person supposedly hundreds of thousands of dollars for a cheeseburger = treating the same. Okay.

Or let’s try approach number two. When you build the restaurant and put in the booths, make it accessible the first time. Costs and gnashing of teeth utterly avoided.

> total handicapped access to each and every computer

Jesus H. Christ, who said you had to? I mean that would be nice, but merely giving a proportionate amount of access is fine. Seriously as I read your account, I think you are the victim of the pinhead corporate counsel, who didn’t understand the law.

> If the restraunt had made, say two or three of it’s tables accessable and reserved for people in wheelchairs, do you think that there wouldn’t have been a lawsuit? I doubt it.

Don’t know, though cynicism is probably well placed. But the question is who is right?

If you can’t get into the interior of the restaurant, or go to the restroom, that means the owner is wrong. But bluntly if you only have a booth or two for the handicapped, well, I say that is reasonable.

13 Kelly 07.10.09 at 4:09 pm

1. “TV, but can’t afford to shuffle its booths a little and put in a few grab bars. ”
You’ve never been there I see… there’s a reason it’s CALLED the Squeeze Inn… there is literally 5 stools, no “Booths”

It’s been there since the 30’s it’s one man and his family’s source of income. It’s a quirky, unique place…

2. “If you can’t get into the interior of the restaurant, or go to the restroom, that means the owner is wrong”
The restroom isn’t in the interior.. it’s out back right next to the COMPLETELY ACCESSIBLE PATIO AREA

Several handicapped people who frequent the place have posted on the news10 website, they eat on the patio, or take out… they’ve no need to take something charming away from the majority because they feel slighted in any way.
This woman is suing to make money. Period.

It’s a crying shame that America is reduced to chains and strip malls for those that can’t just make allowances.

here’s one way

Ring, ring… “Squeeze Inn.”
“Hi, I am really dyin for one of your burgers, but I’m in a wheelchair, can I have table service out on the patio, or have someone run it out to my car?”
“No problem!”
“THANK YOU!”

This woman has set back the plight of the handicapped about 100 years….

14 Jim Collins 07.10.09 at 4:38 pm

Because if each and every computer wasn’t accessable then it would have been considered discrimination. The college decided to turn down the grant, because it didn’t want to run the risk of being sued.

Several years ago there was a lawsuit in Pittsburgh, because several restraunts were not wheelchair accessable. The owners of several restraunts built ramps and many even designated wheelchair parking areas. Then after this the restraunts were sued again. This time they were sued because the ramps and parking spaces were in the BACK of the restraunts. It didn’t matter that the parking spaces were free when every other patron had to pay. It didn’t matter that the tables setup for wheelchairs were the tables nearest to the Kitchen. (Often considered the best tables) Now for the best part. The City of Pittsburgh wouldn’t issue building permits to put ramps in the FRONT of the restraunts! I believe that the law states “reasonable accomodation”, the problem is the definition of reasonable.

15 gitarcarver 07.10.09 at 4:41 pm

Sure. It’s the exclusion of a whole class of people for an arbitrary reason.

Great costs with no ROI is an “arbitrary reason?”

What possible similarity could there be to that and racial segregation?

None. None whatsoever.

I find it odd that this is supposedly a popular restaurant that was featured on national TV, but can’t afford to shuffle its booths a little and put in a few grab bars.

I find if odd that in a diner with no booths, you would argue that shuffling a few booths would settle this.

Actually, even if it came to shutting it down, yes it would. Because people would figure out that the need to cater to everyone.

Actually it wouldn’t as the footprint of the location is so small that building a new restaurant is not feasible.

He is free to plead that it is an undue burden.

Yet you don’t address this.

Charging a person supposedly hundreds of thousands of dollars for a cheeseburger = treating the same. Okay.

Getting the same profit from each customer for the same item = treating the same.

If you can’t get into the interior of the restaurant, or go to the restroom, that means the owner is wrong.

Wrong to who? This is a small restaurant. Why should a place that has been standing for decades (I believe is it pre WWII) be expected to do something that will effectively put them out of business?

16 Kelly 07.10.09 at 5:06 pm

AW needs to at least know what we’re talkin about

Diners Drive Ins & Dives

(video takes a moment to start)

17 A.W. 07.11.09 at 12:34 am

Kelly

We don’t accept second class service based on race. Why should we accept it for disability?

Because it is quirky? Well, gee, if only the KKK could make everyone believe it is quirky.

Jim

> Because if each and every computer wasn’t accessable then it would have been considered discrimination.

That is not the law. Whoever told you it was, is wrong.

Gitar

> Great costs with

I have said it before. I don’t accept that premise.
> Actually it wouldn’t as the footprint of the location is so small that building a new restaurant is not feasible.
Reread what I wrote until you understand my actual argument.
> Yet you don’t address this.
What you quoted DOES address his.

> Getting the same profit from each customer for the same item = treating the same.

Wow, so you actually are a disability bigot. Good to know.

18 gitarcarver 07.11.09 at 11:31 am

We don’t accept second class service based on race. Why should we accept it for disability?

It is the same service others get.

I have said it before. I don’t accept that premise.

You are free to live in whatever reality you choose.

Reread what I wrote until you understand my actual argument.

I did read what you wrote. The fact remains that the property is too small to increase the footprint of the building. That means that property is eliminated as a restaurant. Your “actual” arguement is that other restaurants will step up and take the supposed lucrative “hamburgers for disabled” market.

Of course that doesn’t make sense on the face of it as you are saying that the restaurant must accomodate the disabled shows that the market – the very thing you are advocating – does not do what you want it to do.

Wow, so you actually are a disability bigot. Good to know.

We’re done.

You have a nasty habit fo attacking the messenger when you disagree with them.

You have often mentioned that “common sense” should prevail in this world. It is common sense that this restaurant has no space. (By the way, it didn’t escape my notice that you wanted the restaurant to “shuffle booths” even though the place has no booths and only has 12 stools.) It is common sense that a restaurant should not have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to accomodate a small part of the market. If they market is so great and attractive, then businesses will adapt.

That is common sense.

19 William Nuesslein 07.11.09 at 12:00 pm

There are fairly rare cases where wheelchair traffic would support the costs of providing access. Regulation allows good folks to provide access and stay competitive. The disabled do not have absolute rights to accommodation. Most people, like me, are restricted to which restaurants we frequent by price. My family goes to McDonalds.

Once ADA made rights out of the air, then it opened up the legal system to pernicious gaming.

20 Jim Collins 07.11.09 at 6:51 pm

AW

Since when does the law have anything to do with a lawsuit? The college board chose to turn down the grant based on the advice of it’s lawyer. These suits have nothing to do with increasing access for the handicapped, they are basically legal extortion scams. Get off your high horse and get into reality.

21 PhilG 07.12.09 at 4:03 am

As a result of the lawsuit, the owner of the Squeeze Inn has now decided to close it and to try to seek a larger building:
http://www.news10.net/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=62889&provider=top

In addition, the Market Basket market, which was also sued by the same woman, settled after having paid nearly $18,000 in legal fees and its owner expressed sympathy for the Squeeze Inn’s plight:
http://www.news10.net/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=63016&provider=top

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