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Restaurant owner apologizes, won’t face charge for kicking out woman with service dog

March 30, 2022

A riverfront bar and restaurant owner who was scheduled to go to trial this week will not face a charge of denying access to a disabled person.

Mike Walker, owner of Surfside Club, wrote an apology letter to Valerie Powell. He was shown on video kicking her and her dog out in May. Surfside Club is located north of Omaha along Missouri River.

Powell shared cell phone video from that day with 3 News Now Investigators as she pressed the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Omaha City Attorney’s Office to treat the matter seriously. You can see the full video here.

Walker faced a maximum penalty of three months imprisonment and a $500 fine for the misdemeanor charge of denying access. He faced another misdemeanor of failure to appear from the initial hearing on the matter. He said he thought his court appearance was the next day.

Walker declined further comment on the outcome and deferred to his attorney.

“Going to trial would have created unnecessary strain on all involved, regardless of the outcome,” said Robert Williams, Walker’s attorney in a statement. “At the end of the day, the result is just and fair to the parties. I ask that people resist the urge to make knee-jerk reactions about either Mr. Walker or Ms. Powell. It is incumbent on local business owners to be aware of the parameters of the ADA and educate their employees on the same. I further encourage people with service animals to be willing to help educate others that may be ignorant to the law.”

The city prosecutor’s office confirmed they will ask the charges be dropped. Interim City Prosecutor Kevin Slimp said charges on this issue are rare. He said it is the first time he had seen one.

In addition to dogs, miniature horses can also serve as a service animal, per the Americans with Disabilities Act. The owner of Flirty, a service mini horse, took notice after 3 News Now Investigators first ran this story in July.

She and the owners of service dogs visited Surfside Club, curious if the business had improved its process. Though she said they were originally denied access for not providing documentation, they were eventually served. She said she overheard snide remarks from a manager, but it appeared Surfside Club had learned its lesson at that time.

Learn more: Bellevue woman copes with disability using a mini-horse as service animal

Powell said she forgives Walker and calls the outcome “positive.” She said the letter should be informative to other business owners who do not understand what the ADA requires.

“I don’t want to see anyone go to jail,” she told 3 News Now. “I want (Walker) to be sorry and to learn, and this will help everyone with service animals.”

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