Oct 1, 2011

Owen Harty, Who has filed over 30 ADA violation lawsuits since 2009,files suit against Hooters

A Florida man who advocates for making public facilities more accessible has targeted a Wilmington restaurant with a complaint that it has violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Enlarge A Florida man who visits the Wilmington area filed a lawsuit this week against Wilmington's Hooters for what he says are ADA violations.

Photo by Ken Blevins Owen Harty filed the complaint last week against the Hooters restaurant on Market Street.

"Mr. Harty loves the food at Hooters of Wilmington and to the extent he is able to use it, is a frequent patron of Hooters of Wilmington but is not able to utilize Hooters of Wilmington as equally as non-disabled individuals," the suit reads in part.

The case has been flagged for mediation, according to court documents.

The suit specifically alleges that the restaurant's restroom does not have the required ADA stall, that seating is not accessible and that there are problems with signs in the parking lot and bathroom.

"A place of public accommodation cannot simply put up a disabled sign by a restroom and inside put a few grab bars installed by the local Mr. Just Anybody, anymore than it can install its lighting or its building by the local Mr. Just Anybody," the suit states.

Hooters of Wilmington, which is registered as a limited liability company in Georgia, did not return a message seeking comment.

Harty, who lives in Florida, travels to the Carolinas several times a year to attend gun shows to purchase merchandise for his business, according to documents.

The suit states he is scheduled to attend the Wilmington S&D Gun and Knife Show in December and plans to visit Hooters when in town.

Access advocate, Hooters fan files suit over restroom, signs

By Erin Zureick Dunn

Published: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 11:43 a.m.

Harty uses a wheelchair because a drunk relative accidentally shot him during a trip to Jamaica, according to the suit. He has since become an active member of the National Rifle Association, teaches gun safety classes and sells guns, their accessories and books.

This isn't the first ADA suit Harty has filed. A search of cases in the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina, where Wilmington is located, revealed he has filed at least 30 other similar cases since 2009.

He has previously lodged complaints against Hooters of Raleigh, Belk, Waffle House and Advance Auto Parts.

"This civil rights law for the disabled is significant and it must be enforced," the suit states. "The more cases Owen Harty files and wins, the greater the public service."

Harty could not be reached for comment. His attorney Jacqueline London said in an email that she could not comment on ongoing litigation.

Erin Zureick Dunn: (910) 343-2070

On Twitter: @Zureick