It's always unfortunate when a wheelchair-bound, would-be patron attempts to enter a restaurant only to find that he or she can't be adequately accommodated. Throw in some familiar names and a nationally renowned restaurant, and the story immediately blows up. When Houstonia Magazine features editor Katharine Shilcutt's friend couldn't enter Oxheart because of his wheelchair, she wrote a story about the incident and discussed the issue of restaurants and ADA compliance. The print version of that story hit stands early last week and was reverse-published online on October 1, that's when the article incited a social media debate.
There was a discussion over whether or not Oxheart chef and co-owner Justin Yu had charged the man a cancellation fee, and whether his restaurant complies with ADA regulations. Yu says that they have welcomed handicapped guests to dine at Oxheart well before and since this incident; he says that one of their regular guests (a Gastronaut commenter with the username "Americo Nonini") brought this need to their attention long before that particular visit. At that time they improvised by using the ramp they'd purchased to cart equipment into the restaurant, which prompted them to order a new portable ramp even before this incident — the one they currently use — that hadn't arrived in time for Shilcutt's friend's visit.
As far as whether or not Oxheart has ADA-compliant bathrooms, Yu says that they "have back-ups and other options that would have been available if we'd been able to contact him." Yu asserts that it was the "dining room manager who handled the situation and she talked to his driver." Yu claims that he tried to contact Shilcutt's friend on several occasions.
All of the online back and forth commentary has lead some readers to fabricate a falling-out between Shilcutt and Yu, one that seems to be completely unfounded. Yu tells Eater: "Katharine and I have a good relationship, we always have, and we will continue to have a good relationship." Shilcutt stresses that it was never her attempt to bash the restaurant itself. She says that her fact-checkers couldn't reach an Oxheart rep before her late-July print deadline, and she has updated the online version of the story with the new information she's received — mainly that no cancellation fee was charged.
· Standing Room Only [Houstonia]
· Oxheart [Official Site]
Oxheart [Gary Wise/Flickr]