Mr. Brian Ward
(Represented by Michael McDarby & Co.)
Oak Bar, Co. Mayo
(Represented by T. Dillon-Leetch & Sons, Solicitors)
Mr. Ward referred a claim to the Director of Equality Investigations under the Equal Status Act 2000. In accordance with her powers under section 75 of the Employment Equality Act, the Director then delegated the case to me, Bernadette Treanor, an Equality Officer, for investigation, hearing and decision and for the exercise of other relevant functions of the Director under Part III of the Equal Status Act.
Summary of the Complainant's case
Mr. Ward entered the Oak Bar on Sunday 2nd June 2002 at about 4:30 pm with three others. He had been in the pub the night before with his wife and he had been to the premises occasionally during the preceding year. He had never encountered any difficulties during these previous visits. When he met his relations on 2nd June at his sister-in-law's home and they decided to go for a drink, he suggested the Oak Bar, expecting to be served as usual. He had been in the pub the previous evening with his wife and another couple. They left later to go to a local nightclub. The evening had passed without incident. On the Sunday afternoon, he alleges that when he entered the bar he was refused and told that there were too many Travellers coming into the pub. He alleges that the refusal is because of his membership of the Traveller community.
Summary of the Respondent's Case
The respondent stated that on the evening of Saturday 1st June 2002 there had been a disturbance of sorts in the bar. The back bar had been mainly occupied by a private party and some people who left the front bar to get away from the noise. The licensee at the time stated that he recognised the complainant and knew him as a customer but could not name him at that time. He was in the front bar and appeared to know those who were present. The Licensee's impression was that those present were all acquainted with each other. At one point, around closing time, the licensee saw a man sitting at the counter beside a pool of vomit. Around this time his attention was also drawn to the toilets which also contained vomit and had been smeared with excrement. Both front and back bars share the toilets but knowing those in the back bar the licensee concluded that those in the front bar, whom he did not know, were responsible. He began clearing the bar and had some difficulty in getting those in the front bar to leave. The next day, when the four gentlemen entered the bar and Mr. Ward approached the bar, he immediately concluded that the two who sat down were obviously intoxicated. He recognised one of them as the individual sitting by the vomit the night before. He refused the group and states that, as he was nervous about refusing four men, he may have said that his father had said not to serve them. He denies that he made any reference to Travellers not being served. He was not aware that either Mr. Ward or the party the previous evening were members of the Traveller community.
Conclusions of the Equality Officer
I am satisfied that Mr. Ward is a member of the Traveller community. Mr. Ward was a customer of the Oak Bar for up to a year and had not encountered any difficulties until 2/6/2002. Therefore, the Bar had served him all that time without any difficulty. I am satisfied that something occurred which changed his status in the pub in order to suddenly attract a refusal. The licensee asserts that on the Sunday afternoon two of the group who entered were intoxicated, and obviously so. In addition, one of those two was identified as having been disorderly the previous evening. In my opinion, either of those two reasons would have been sufficient to warrant a refusal. Neither of these individuals were presented as witnesses and the complainant had no witness to support his statement that the previous night had passed without event. On the other hand the respondent had three witnesses to the fact that the bar and toilets had been left in an unacceptable condition and two of the witnesses identified one of those sitting as having been present the previous evening. The licensee stated that that individual was the one sitting beside the pool of vomit. He stated that in his opinion no one would elect to sit beside such a pool unless they were responsible. He also stated that he had seen nothing to indicate that the complainant was responsible for any of the unacceptable conduct.
On the balance of probabilities I find that an incident did occur on the previous evening, that one individual suspected as being involved in that incident was part of the group and that he and another member of the group who entered with the complainant were intoxicated. On that basis I find that the respondent refused the complainant because he was part of a group containing an individual who had been involved in an incident the previous evening and who, with a second person, was intoxicated. Since I am satisfied that a non-Traveller who entered with a person suspected of being involved in unacceptable conduct and who was intoxicated would also have been refused, I find that the reason for the refusal was not the complainant's membership of the Traveller community. I find that the complainant has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination.
I find that the complainant has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination and therefore this decision is in favour of the respondent.
23rd January 2006