ORLANDO, Fla. — A downtown Orlando restaurant known for its drag shows and burgers says it's fighting to keep their restaurant accessible to everyone.
- Hamburger Mary's: Developer is violating Americans with Disabilities Act
- Part-owner says developer blocked wheelchair access to restaurant
- Orlando city council to vote Nov. 11 on developer's plans for new tower
- Get more Orange County coverage
Part-owner of Hamburger Mary's John Panessa doesn’t want his restaurant to be known for being difficult for those in wheelchairs.
“It should not be an inconvenience for anyone coming to the dining room,” he said.
Panessa says they used to have a ramp for people in wheelchairs or otherwise disabled to use through a set of doors near their property.
“This door is now not accessible. There’s no way to get in or out, because there’s construction on the inside,” Panessa said, referencing construction being done on the building by Lincoln Property Group.
Now Panessa says they have to bring their customers with mobility issues all the way around the restaurant and through the back door into the kitchen.
“There’s a lot of activity back here, a lot going on, people running around… in that chaos we have to maneuver a wheelchair or someone with a walker who can’t get up the stairs through that crowd to get out here,” he said.
Not only is it inconvenient, Panessa says — it’s illegal.
“They’re obviously violating the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws, and they know that. They received the letter from our attorney,” Panessa said.
This is just one part of Hamburger Mary’s ongoing beef with the Lincoln Property Group.
Panessa says they were in an agreement for Lincoln Property to buy out their lease, so they could move to a new location. But he says the company backed out and left them with no wheelchair access, along with limited patio seating.
“We’ve reached out to find some sort of resolution but have been stonewalled,” Panessa said.
We reached out to Lincoln Property Group about these issues, but they told us no one was authorized to speak to us for our story.
Panessa says they’ll take legal action if they have to. But they worry they won’t be able to compete with a large corporation like Lincoln.
“It almost feels like David and Goliath,” Panessa said.
According to Panessa, the city of Orlando can’t directly get involved in tenant-landlord issues, but they do have to give the final approval on the developer's plans for the new tower.
Panessa hopes the city will listen to their concerns when the time comes for that vote. They plan to be at the November 11 meeting where the city council will vote on the approval.