Man with a service dog denied service at a Naples restaurant, employee facing discrimination charge

Published: February 7, 2022 3:21 PM EST
Updated: February 8, 2022 8:21 AM EST

A stop to grab a pizza ended with a man and his service dog getting kicked to the curb, as  Naples police say an employee at Rosati’s Pizza refused to serve the man because of his dog.

The owner of Rosati’s Pizza, Angelo Pilalis, says it won’t happen again at his business and that the employee involved has been let go..

Pilalis is now extending an olive branch in the hope of making things right.

“We know that [the employee is] wrong, we know we’re wrong,” said Pilalis. “And so we’d like to make it right.”

He is upset and angry that one of his employees could step so far out of line. He says his 19-year-old employee Carl Ohlhaber, embarrassed him, his business and his other customers. Most importantly, he embarrassed a man with a service animal who just wanted to place an order.

“What he did was wrong. And we apologize for that. It wasn’t a good thing that happened,” said Pilalis.

The police report says a man, who has a medical condition that his dog helps curtail, went into the pizza shop with that small service vest-wearing dog. They say Ohlhaber told him to leave.

“What he did was, you know, he humiliated people,” Pilalis said. And not only did he humiliate the man with a medical condition but many of Rosati’s other customers.

When police arrived and told Ohlhaber he was ignoring the Americans with Disabilities Act and Florida law, the Naples officer wrote in his report that Ohlhaber said “F” the law and shouted at him, “I hope you burn in hell.”

“It was inappropriate, he was wrong. And we’d like to call the guy who he did this to and his wife and apologize to them and bring him in here for a free meal. And a beer or glass of wine. So we’d like to, we’d like to make it right.”

While this business owner wants to do the right thing, Barb Page with Disability Rights Florida said there are still a lot of business owners actively discriminating against disabled people with service dogs.

“It’s extremely upsetting for, for the individuals. And it’s, it’s an, I can’t tell you how, how frequent it happens. And unfortunately, it’s not slowed down. And I’m still getting a lot of calls in cases like this,” said Page.

Pilalis said his now-former employee lied to him and told him the dog did not have a vest on. Police say the dog did.

Ohlhaber is facing a discrimination charge for his actions and is no longer employed, at least not at Rosati’s.

As for the customer who was turned away, Pilalis is hoping they will return for a meal on the house.

WINK News spoke with Mark Fry from Cape Coral to get his take on the incident. Like the man who was denied service, Fry has a service dog. For him, his dog Noah is a lifeline.

Wherever Fry goes, his service dog Noah is right beside him. “Everywhere. You know, that’s the point.”

Fry runs Wolfhounds Legacy, which trains service dogs for veterans. Fry himself is a veteran who suffered a brain injury while in the navy.

Fry said, “so my dog, you know, just provides that comfort when things get a little bit difficult for me during the day. Noah knows I’m a little stressed now. Not used to being interviewed.”

Naples police say an employee at Rosati’s Pizza refused service to a man with a service dog.

“Yeah, it makes me feel uncomfortable. It does. When they’re out trying to regain that daily normal living conditions, and that’s why they need their service dog with them all the time,” said Fry. “The guy was ignorant. And I think a lot of owners or workers are never educated.”

Fry said he hopes people will become more educated on service dogs so that situations like this happen less often.