Representatives of 12 restaurants — deemed among Philadelphia's 25 most popular — have signed agreements with the U.S. Attorney's Office, acknowledging that they will correct deficiencies identified under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Inspections ordered by the Justice Department in 2015 and 2016 brought to light such issues as high bar tops and counters, ramps with insufficient handrails, and restrooms considered difficult to maneuver in or lacking grab bars.
Seven of the restaurants (Buddakan, Butcher & Singer, Dandelion, El Vez, Morimoto, Parc, and Talula's Garden) are operated by Stephen Starr; three (Amada, Village Whiskey, and Tinto) by Jose Garces; one by the developer John Longacre (South Philadelphia Tap Room); and one (Barbuzzo) by Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran. All have agreed to make repairs and to internally review their ADA compliance going forward.
Thirteen other restaurants were inspected: Amis, Brauhaus Schmitz, Del Frisco's, Fogo de Chao, Kanella, Matyson (and later Milkhouse), Max Brenner, Osteria, Pub & Kitchen, Sampan, Vedge, Vernick Food & Drink, and Zahav. The U.S. Attorney's Office said many of these restaurants had fewer or more minor issues that have been addressed without a formal agreement. The office declined to comment further.
The restaurants were not reviewed in response to a specific complaint, the U.S. Attorney's Office said, crediting the operators for working with the government. In April 2016, the U.S. Attorney's Office filed suit against Longacre's company, alleging that it failed to cooperate with the review of SPTR. The settlement, which calls for a better ramp on the property's Hicks Street entrance, resolves that suit.
John T. Crutchlow, an assistant U.S. attorney, said the department selected the restaurants for the review by using a combination of third-party restaurant rankings, including Zagat Survey's rankings for popularity and Open Table's list of the 10-most-booked restaurants. That list was then compared with a list of the total number of Yelp reviews.
As such, the government's list included a disproportionate number of high-profile restaurateurs doing business in a city teeming with century-old buildings. All opened after the ADA's Standards for Accessible Design took effect in 1991.
Some of the deficiencies seemed simple to remedy, such as the repositioning of restroom mirrors and portable trash cans at El Vez and the removal of floor lamps at Talula's Garden and a potted plant from a restroom at Dandelion.
Others appeared to be more complicated, such as the removal of a set of French doors leading to restrooms at Parc, removal of bar stools at Barbuzzo, and a lowering of a sushi counter at Morimoto. (See the individual agreements here.)
A Garces spokeswoman said the company has completed the necessary steps at Amada, Tinto, and Village Whiskey. "Our commitment to make sure all of our restaurants are accessible and ADA-compliant is always a top priority and will continue to be taken seriously," she said.
A woman filed suit this year to allege that the entrance of one other Garces-owned restaurant, 24 Wood Fired Fare at 2401 Walnut St., was difficult to navigate. Court records show that the suit is being settled, likely with the building owner. That restaurant, which opened in late 2016, was not visited by the Justice Department inspectors. Garces' representative said Garces was not directly involved in this matter.