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She said, they said – woman refused drink at pub due to scooter – pub denies claim

Nicola O’Brian
Photo: Nicola O’Brian

A woman with a physical disability says she was refused a drink at a pub for using a mobility scooter – a claim the pub has angrily refuted.

Nicola O’Brian, 50, from Frinton-on-Sea in Essex, described her humiliation on September 4 when staff at The Wolf Inn refused to take her order unless she left her scooter outside the pub.

The encounter has been reported as a ‘hate crime’.

Management at The Wolf Inn, located in Oulton Broad, Suffolk, fervently dispute O’Brian’s claim, stating it was simply a ‘health and safety hazard’. They insist she could have had table service if she left her scooter outside as they have a ‘low threshold to allow wheelchair user easy access’.

They claim footage showing the woman getting off the scooter to climb over steps ‘proves she can walk unaided’.

O’Brian uses a mobility aid due to a condition called lymphedema, which causes swelling as a result of a build-up of lymph fluid in the body.

Her husband, Mark, did help ‘hike the scooter over’ the stairs before she walked a few steps while leaning on it.

Speaking to Metro.co.uk, O’Brian said, “I sat back down and went on my scooter to the bar and this chap stood there and said ‘you’re going to have to take that outside’.

“I looked around and said, ‘What outside?’ He went ‘Your scooter, you can’t have that in here’. And I’m like, ‘really? Okay, why not?’ He said ‘It’s health and safety, this is too small a bar to have them in’.”
O’Brian felt ‘horrifically embarrassed’ when he allegedly replied, ‘You need to go outside and wait until somebody comes out and serves you’.

After telling staff the action was ‘discriminatory’, O’Brian began recording and was told ‘you can stay, but your scooter has got to go outside’.

She said, “Some days, I could park it outside, but other days I can’t. Saturday was a day that I couldn’t.”

“I was in a lot of pain. You can’t discriminate by judging what type of mobility aids somebody has.”

Adding, “People like myself, we face this kind of discrimination all the time so it just gets to a point where you have to stand up and be counted.

“Today, I’m prepared to stand up and say ‘you were wrong. You should apologise. You shouldn’t make excuses, and I deserve better and so does anybody else in the same situation’.”

Speaking to Metro, the Wolf Inn recounted, “The barman asked the lady to leave the scooter outside on the basis of seeing her physically lift the mobility scooter in the building and walk through the bar. Evidence of this is on our Facebook page.

“The customer was never asked to leave and was offered table service as per our disability access statement.

“Our disability access statement is available on our premises to read and on our website for customers to read prior to coming into the establishment.”

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said, “Police made enquires and are treating it as a hate incident. This means no formal action will be taken in relation to the matter but it has been recorded by the police and the relevant licensing authority has been informed.

“We have also engaged with the licence holder and provided them with suitable advice. The complainant has been informed.”

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