Jose Garces' restaurant company and the owner of the building that houses his Center City restaurant 24 Wood-Fired Fare have been sued by a Philadelphia woman who claims that she could not easily access the restaurant because its entrances are not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Michele A. Leahy's lawsuit, filed March 2 in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, describes her as a foodie and business woman who has spina bifida, myasthenia gravis, and a below-knee amputation. It also says she uses a wheelchair.
Court records show that since 2011, Leahy has sued other businesses, including PetSmart, Dick's Sporting Goods, and Giant Food Stores, over accessibility concerns. The cases were all settled.
Leahy's suit says she had read about 24, attached to Garces' corporate offices at 2401 Walnut Street before its opening, but had concerns about accessibility, based on her visits to other Garces restaurants.
She contacted Disability Rights Pennsylvania, an advocacy group, to express her concerns. The suit says that before 24's opening, DRP staff toured the restaurant and advised the defendants of a need for an accessible entrance at a new patio and vestibule.
Her suit, filed by two attorneys from Disability Rights Pennsylvania, says some concerns were addressed, but other issues, including the lack of an accessible entrance to the new construction, were unresolved.
When Leahy visited the restaurant on Nov. 22 for lunch, she said she saw two
entrances — one in front, with four steps, and a second at the patio, which had two steps. There was no sign indicating an alternate accessible entrance,
she says. When she phoned the restaurant from outside, she was told that there was an accessible entrance at 24th and Sansom Streets, behind the restaurant.
That path — which she said was not marked — required her to travel about four blocks and overcome "numerous architectural barriers," including a steep hill and cracked concrete, the complaint says.
The suit also says that to travel from 24's inaccessible entrance at 2401 Walnut Street to the 24th and Sansom Street entrance by car would require her to "drive over half a mile and cross the Schuylkill River twice." (In practice, however, the entrance is accessible directly from the parking lot at 24th Street, assuming that the driver knew about that entrance in the first place. A notation on the website gives directions.)
Besides the restaurant and the parent company, defendants include 2401 Walnut LP, which owns the building.
A Garces spokesperson confirmed that the company had received the complaint and said it was under review.