Reasons and Remarks - Lowering the Bar

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News October 2017

How many times have you gone into a bar for a drink and an appetizer only to find all the seating in the bar area, and I’m not talking just the bar itself, but all the tables in the bar, are high-top tables?

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How many times have you gone into a bar for a drink and an appetizer only to find all the seating in the bar area, and I’m not talking just the bar itself, but all the tables in the bar, are high-top tables?  

I have found this to be a growing problem because I’m unfortunately finding it in new construction. I always ask, “So, you don’t have any low tables in the bar?” The answer is usually the same: “We can seat you at a table in the restaurant.” 

If they do have a lowered section of the bar itself, they have no doubt turned it into, as I have seen many times, the wait staff’s area to pick up drink orders. About six months ago, I stopped in my neighborhood Fry’s grocery store on my way home from work. This grocery store is a rather upscale market with an incredible wine cellar and a wine bar for patrons. This is a fairly new store and when it was built, it had one section of the bar lowered, as required for wheelchair-accessible seating; so you’d think that all’s good. Not really. The store management had turned this accessible section of the bar into the point of sale area and placed the cash register there.

It gets worse. On this particular day, they were tearing out the lower section of the bar and raising it to the same height as the rest of the bar. I rolled over and nicely asked a worker what the plans were regarding the required accessible seating.

The answer I received was, “I don’t know anything about that. I just know it was really inconvenient for our customers to swipe their credit cards on such a low counter.”

I explained that the low counter was never intended to be used for a checkout area, as it is the required accessible seating. I was again met with, “I wouldn’t know anything about that.” I went to the store’s customer service area and asked to speak with the manager. I got the manager on duty, not the store manager, but explained the situation, to which I was told, “We’ll look into it.”  Months went by and I made several other inquiries, but nothing changed and I received no real answer. Finally, I filed a complaint with the City of Phoenix’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator. I immediately received an acknowledgment that my complaint had been received and months went by before I heard anything from them. 

Just a month ago, I received an email from the coordinator, and it went like this: 

Mr. Fjerstad,

Thank you for your continued patience as my team has been investigating your complaint at the Fry’s Food Store/Wine Bar Area. After much discussion and deliberation, code reviews and legal interpretations, we have come to a conclusion.

Very recently our Structural Inspection Field Supervisor visited the Fry’s store again and spoke with the store manager, Rick Swank. He showed us the area where the seating was and now is the location of their Point of Sale (cash register).

The employee working behind the counter said there was an ADA counter at this location, as you alleged, and that it was removed when they changed the point of sale location. The store manager, Rick, said that he would notify their corporate office to have this complaint resolved. City of Phoenix inspectors will continue to monitor the situation, and I will personally update you of changes. 

At this time, I believe that Fry’s is making a good faith effort to remediate this non-compliant seating location. If you have additional items of concern, please do not hesitate to call or email me directly. 

Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to return to my neighborhood Fry’s, have a glass of wine, then proceed to grocery shop and buy all kinds of things that I don’t need but that look really good after that glass of wine.


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Reasons and Remarks - Lowering the Bar


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