HOPEWELL, Va. -- A Dinwiddie family is hoping to spread a message of compassion, after they say a loved one was discriminated against while trying to eat out at a Hopewell restaurant last month.
Butch Beasley, 56, suffers from Muscular dystrophy, a neural muscular disorder that's slowly robbed him of his mobility over the past 26 years.
Nine years ago, the former Petersburg salesman and EMS volunteer, lost his ability to walk when he fell in his home and suffered a broken hip.
Beasley now relies on a mobility scooter and a car with hand controls for transportation. However, his disability has advanced to the point that his family must physically move him in and out of his scooter.
"I don't go out a lot anymore," Beasley said. "If I get in my truck, I'm happy being in my truck."
While the physical limitations are difficult, Nancy Beasley said, the emotional toll is worse on her husband when he's treated differently in public.
"That's a knife ripping my heart out because I know the struggle that he's going through and it's not just his struggle, this affects all of us," Nancy said.
It was on Friday, September 22, that the Beasley’s went to dinner with their two grown children at the K & L Barbecue Restaurant. The family said they requested that the owner allow them to dine at a six-top table, instead of a four top, to accommodate Beasley's scooter.
"He just said they have to remain open for parties of five or more," Nancy Beasley said.
"I told him, we were five because he requires two spaces, and he said 'no, five people,'" Nancy said the owner replied.
She said tensions escalated when the owner asked if her husband could move from his scooter into a booth or chair.
"Can you imagine someone having to pick you up in the middle of a crowded restaurant and put you in a chair so you could eat with your family versus someone having the compassion to allow you to have a table that's meant for five people or more," a tearful Nancy said.
While the owners of K & L Barbecue declined to go on camera, owner Linda Purdie explained that the restaurant was extremely crowded that evening and had limited space for larger parties.
She also said her husband informed the Beasley family that they had other disabled patrons who were able to eat at the four top tables in their scooters.
Purdie said her husband had seen Butch Beasley eating at the restaurant before and able to sit in a booth, so he assumed that he was able to get out of his scooter.
Purdie said Nancy Beasley became very angry and started yelling before storming out of the restaurant. She said in all their years in the restaurant business, she had never had a similar problem.
While Nancy Beasley said she regretted her behavior, she said she was set off by the owner's rude dismissal of her husband's request.
"You could see the hurt," Nancy said. "He felt embarrassed, he felt ashamed. He felt like he was less because he couldn't do what the owner wanted him to do."
Butch Beasley called the ordeal humiliating.
"If I'm going to go get something to eat, I just assume going to a drive-thru instead of going to a restaurant," Beasley said. "Not because of the way this particular person in Hopewell treated me, but the looks that I get. I can't stand that people look at you like you're funny."
The Beasley family has filed a discrimination complaint against the restaurant. They said their intentions aren't to hurt the restaurant's owners, but to create awareness about the challenges people with disabilities face every day.
"Up until that day, we enjoyed going to the restaurant," Nancy Beasley said. "We enjoyed their food, they were always friendly. There's no way possible I could ever step back in there."
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