Friday, August 1, 2014

An Open Letter to The Jekyll and Hyde Club in Times Square, NYC

To Whom It May Concern at the Jekyll and Hyde Club, Times Square, New York City,

Yesterday, (July 31st, 2014) I attempted to dine at your establishment with four friends.  I had heard good things about Jekyll and Hyde and thought it would be a treat, especially since one of my friends was coming from out of town and we were searching for tourist attractions.  I was disappointed and appalled with my experience - if an "experience" includes not even being able to dine at your restaurant.

Four of the five of us, including myself, use power wheelchairs.  We were greeted at the door by a hostess who very politely showed us to the lift elevator hidden behind the bookcase by the entrance.  The lift was too small to fit more than one of us at a time, so we individually took the lift upstairs, sent the lift back down for the next person, and so on.  As you can imagine, this was a laborious process.  Once upstairs in the gift shop area, we were shown to the elevator to the dining area.  Once again, this elevator could only accommodate one wheelchair user at a time.  We repeated the process of going upstairs - one at a time.  This all took a good deal of time.

I arrived upstairs to find my friend looking frustrated.  He explained that the staff did not have room for all of us.  There were two waiters trying to move chairs to make room.  One of them asked me: "How many wheelchairs?  Two?"  We calmly explained that no, there were four of us using wheelchairs.  They told us that they didn't have room and asked if we could get out of our chairs.  Disregarding the fact that getting our chairs would have been varying degrees of painful, uncomfortable and difficult for all of us, a wheelchair is generally regarded as an extension of a person's body.  Suggesting that a wheelchair user get out of their chair is as disrespectful as suggesting that someone cut off their limbs in order to fit at a table.  Additionally, power wheelchairs can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars.  Leaving our wheelchairs would have meant leaving them in a place where they most likely would have been out of our sight and vulnerable to damage or theft.  If this had happened, not only would we have been stripped of our mobility and freedom, but, in the worst case scenario, we would have had to pay tens of thousands of dollars in repairs or for a new wheelchair altogether.  That is not a risk any of us were willing to take.

By this time all five of us had arrived upstairs.  We discussed our options.  At no time did any of the staff ever apologize to us or offer an alternative solution.  We were not valued customers - we were simply an inconvenience.  Eventually, we decided to take our business elsewhere.  We wasted at least half an hour going up two elevators one at a time, only to be told that we were not wanted.  Instead, we took our business next door to Guy's American Kitchen, where the staff were friendly and welcoming.  With tip, drinks, and dessert, we spent nearly $200 at Guy's American Kitchen - money that could have gone to Jekyll and Hyde, if your establishment was more accepting.

For an establishment in the middle of Times Square, where millions of diverse human beings travel every day, the Jekyll and Hyde Club is disappointing, to say the least, when it comes to welcoming disabled customers.  You not only lost the business of five potential customers, you have lost the business of many other disabled people who may think twice about visiting your restaurant after they read about the negative attitudes perpetuated by your staff.  I plan on leaving negative reviews with a link to this post on Yelp and other review sites so that other disabled people are warned before they encounter the same sort of discrimination we were subjected to.  Disabled people are our nation's largest minority.  If you want to receive our business, I suggest you train your staff better in matters of diversity.  Until then, you will not be receiving one cent from me.

Cara Liebowitz
Blogger, That Crazy Crippled Chick