The Majestic Responds To Preston Craig’s Accusations

Several days ago, a local DJ and blogger named Preston Craig wrote a piece for his blog, kissatlanta.com, accusing the operators of The Majestic diner on Ponce De Leon Avenue of mistreating him because he uses a wheelchair.

His blog entry was subsequently reproduced on ATLBloggers.net and excerpted on this blog by Metblogger Lori.

Because of the seriousness of Craig’s accusations (basically, that The Majestic illegally and cruelly discriminated against him because he uses a wheelchair), I thought it fair that the operators of The Majestic be given a chance to tell their side of the story in the same public forum.

I e-mailed and spoke to The Majestic’s co-owner Tasso Costarides. Costarides was not present at either of the incidents, but he made several very important points:

Costarides says that The Majestic’s main door has a ramp for wheelchairs and that there’s seating near the front of the restaurant that can accomodate customers using wheelchairs. Despite the restaurant’s front ramp and wheelchair accessible seating, Preston Craig twice entered the restaurant via a rampless emergency fire exit that was clearly marked Stop and Emergency Exit Only.

Costarides says that Craig’s rudeness to the staff, combined with his disregard for house rules by entering through the emergency exit, got him banned from the restaurant over a year ago. He was told by police to never come back.

Despite Craig hearing rumors to the contrary, Costarides says that the ban was still in place when Craig returned recently (through the same emergency exit). According to Costarides, the restaurant staff reminded him of the ban and that he broke the rules by entering (and subsequently exiting) through the fire door. The restaurant did not call the police, even though Craig was, at that point, trespassing.

In addition to his own statement, Costarides also provided me with an e-mail statement from Lucas Power. Power was the night manager at the time of the first incident that Mr. Craig describes.

Power says that Craig and his party were offered wheelchair accessible seating, but that they refused it because it was non-smoking. He also says that Craig was verbally abusive.

Here, in full, is Power’s statement:

This guy has a very selective memory. In all the nights I spent working at the diner, no one was ever turned away at the door. The exception to this rule would be someone without shoes, someone covered in blood, or someone previously banned for some out-of-line behavior.

The night in question has two precursors. First, when Preston was told we could accommodate him in either the first four-top or at the counter. This is when he opted not to stay.

The second is the incident that he claims kept him away for three years. The actual chronology is more like a year and half or two, tops.

On that night, Preston had a table full of friends in the smoking section (the back of the dining room). Again, he was informed of his seating options, and even was explained the rationale — the aisle is too narrow, the side door is a fire exit. We even offered to move the entire party up front, across a couple booths, so he could still sit with his friends.

It’s worth noting that his friends refused to move because they wanted to stay in the smoking section. In the end that simply wasn’t good enough. Despite the fact that we told him no one was allowed to use the fire exit as an entrance, he still went around to the side and got someone to let him in. When we saw that he had used the fire exit to get in and would certainly have to use it to leave, we decided to just ask him to leave altogether. Not because he was in a wheelchair and we were all draconian, but because he had blatantly broken a rule of the house.

When we asked him to leave, Preston got very belligerent and started making a scene. This is when we were accused of discriminating against him.

By becoming abusive toward the staff, Preston broke a second rule of the house. He informed us that he would not be leaving and that we would have to call the police. When the cops arrived, events unfolded as they do each and every time someone refuses to leave. The police calmly explained that he would have to leave as we requested, and furthermore issued a verbal, criminal trespass warrant.

On third shift, almost everyone is out trying to have a good time. Some people get out of hand and the only way to maintain any semblance order is to stick hard to a few basic rules. If a customer chooses not to respect our rules, then we choose not to serve them. It’s very simple.

Not one angle of this incident makes Preston a pioneer. If anything, it makes him overly sensitive.

10 Comments so far

  1. mingaling (Lori) (unregistered) on January 6th, 2006 @ 9:35 am

    He’s also changing his tone (slightly) in the same post, now. (in comments)


  2. Richard (unregistered) on January 6th, 2006 @ 10:33 am

    There’s always two sides to every story. Thanks for giving everyone involved a chance to let their side be known.


  3. Daniel (unregistered) on January 6th, 2006 @ 11:13 am

    Andi – thanks for getting this. I’ve been to the Majestic a lot of times in the past and I found Craig’s story to be a little… uh… incomplete when I first read it. Power’s comment seems a little more credible to me. But, then again, I wasn’t there and haven’t talked to (nor do I know) anyone involved, so…


  4. Lucas Power (unregistered) on January 6th, 2006 @ 7:27 pm

    The first statement was in the interest of equal time. This shit is from the heart, though…

    What astounds me is that, if you ask around town, eveyone knows this guy. A few people know his name, but mostly people know him as “that asshole in the wheelchair.” Our society has slipped to the point of never saying a word, about anything, except to our friends, in closed rooms. This is the tragedy of culture. No system need be implemented by an authority to censor ideas, because we’ve done the job for them. This goes beyond some prick who was probably a prick before the wheelchiar and speaks to the larger point of suppression in the face of public opinion. Orwell (if we could further beat the man’s name beyond recognition) said it himself in the infamously censored preface to Animal Farm. The key is that if public opinion, or consent, is manufacted
    –by whom, we all know– then by shoring up those ideas we’ve, all by ourselves, defeated something that no power stucture has ever been able stand up to. A unified people.


  5. Steven Hall (unregistered) on January 7th, 2006 @ 6:31 pm

    I have worked for the Majestic for almost 6 years and I can tell you there are no two better people to work for than Tasso and his dad Mr Bill.They are fair, understanding, and always accommodating to everyone who walks through the majestic doors. Tasso has house rules that are in place to protect us all (customers and employees)while inside the majestic diner. The house rules that are in place at the majestic are in no way discriminating and apply to everyone. Unfortunately Mr Craig used his disability to try and break those very rules in order to set himself above everyone else.


  6. Preston Craig (unregistered) on January 7th, 2006 @ 7:00 pm

    I agree there are two sides to every story. I have posted Tasso’s response to kissatlanta.com even though he didn’t attempt to post it himself. I am posting my reply here as well and at this point both sides have been heard and I’m willing to take the rest of it privately with Tasso.

    If there is one truth to any of this… it is that both sides could have handled the situation better.

    Here’s my reply:

    Tasso,

    I allowed the posting of the first comment on my website even though the person did so without using their name because I felt like people had a right ot support the majestic. I replied to that post and left it at that. I recieved another comment that was redundant and decided not to post it in order to keep the argument from continuing on endlessly.

    Your father at some point said that i was not to return to the restaurant after the first incident. I still maintain… as will many of the people that were with me the first time… that your father was very hostile the night of the confrontation. I did my best to remain civil and didn’t get combative until he started yelling at me telling me wheelchairs couldn’t be in the main dining section. Even then my way of being “belligerent or combative” was simply stating that I had a right to sit with my party in a public establishment. Your father threatened to call the cops. I called them for him. When the cops came they stated their was nothing they could do either way… mainly because they don’t enforce civil rights issues and I was already outside of the restaurant when they came.

    After the first time this happened, a friend of mine Bernard from XXXX XXXX heard the story. Reportedly he is a friend of yours as well. He said he had spoken to you… and in short… that you were unaware of what had happened and that you said the incident wouldn’t happen again. When I told your father Tasso said it was ok… I was assuming the relaying of this story was correct. Knowing Bernard, I had no reason to believe he was misleading me. I / He was apparently misinformed.

    That is why we even attempted to re-visit the restaurant. I’m not one to willingly give money or patronage to people who commit a wrong… but unfortunate incidents happen for whatever reason and I was willing to give things a second chance. We asked a staff member if it was ok to use the side door and she said sure and opened the door. I thought we were ok at that point. The your father came out and started immediately yelling again. I never once raised my voice… he started yelling at my guest who is a regular at your restaurant and suggested we go. We quietly ate our food… tipped the waitress nearly 100% and left without incident.

    Unfortunately, we can go back and forth all day long about the specifics of the evening and who was more out of line than the other. You were not present for any of the incidents therefore all information you’re getting is second hand. Lines get rather blurred at 5 am when people are angry, yelling, scared, and/or confused.

    There are a few things that need to be debated:

    Your father repeatedly stated how the restaurant is a historical building and exempt from ADA accessibility guidelines. This is a common misconception and entirely wrong.

    “From the National Preservation Society website:

    Historic properties are not exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. To the greatest extent possible, historic buildings must be as accessible as non-historic buildings. However, it may not be possible for some historic properties to meet the general accessibility requirements.

    Under Title III of the ADA, owners of “public accommodations” (theaters, restaurants, retail shops, private museums) must make “readily achievable” changes; that is, changes that can be easily accomplished without much expense. This might mean installing a ramp, creating accessible parking, adding grab bars in bathrooms, or modifying door hardware. The requirement to remove barriers when it is “readily achievable” is an ongoing responsibility. When alterations, including restoration and rehabilitation work, are made, specific accessibility requirements are triggered.

    From Endelman and Associates, PLLC:

    Per the ADAAG, Minimal Requirements for Accessibility in Historic Buildings are:

    1.

    A minimum of one accessible route from the site to an accessible entry. (A ramp with a 1:6 slope for a maximum 2 foot length may be used at an exterior entry.)
    2.

    At least one accessible entry shall be provided. (If public entries cannot comply, then a non-public, unlocked entry may be provided, with directional signage provided at the public entries.)
    3.

    If toilets are provided, at least one toilet on an accessible route must be provided. (A unisex privacy restroom may be used.)
    4.

    An accessible route shall be provided to all public spaces at the level of the entry.
    5.

    Displays and written information must be viewable by a seated person, including horizontal displays at 44″ maximum.

    Again, these minimal requirements may only be used by exception, when it is formally and properly determined that meeting the standard requirements for alterations to buildings cannot be done, in order to preserve the historic nature.

    If you own an historic landmark, work with your landmarks board, architect and ADA Consultant to arrive at good, compliant solutions.”

    I’ve been faulted by you guys for using a fire exit. Through all the research I’ve done so far I’ve yet to find physical laws that prevent someone from using a fire exit as an entrance. I know that in many business the official fire exits also act as working entrances and exits. A designated fire exit is defined by certain aspects that qualify it to be a fire exit (36″ pathway, crash bar, outward opening, signs, etc). In many cases where buildings were not fully accessible via their main entrance secondary non-public doors are used for entrance. This includes service entrances, fire exits, etc. I know for a fact that many establishments utilize all of their doors… some of those also being designated fire exits.

    Providing one table at the door to your restaurant doesn’t seem very fair when it wouldn’t take much to make the rest of the establishment accessible. Hey, I’m not even asking for bathroom access at this point. Just the right to sit at the same table with all of my friends when that table is available. I’m typically very lenient on accessibility. I carry my own portable ramps… I negotiate narrow pathways… I piss behind dumpsters because someplace didn’t feel like modifying their bathrooms. If I filed a Title III complaint every time I encountered a major infraction, I’d never leave the house.

    I am quite sorry that it has come to this. Usually, when I find something that’s wrong I make a mention to the manager/owner… give a few suggestions on how to make the place more accessible without going overboard… or just work something out for that particular issue. Unfortunately, I was not given even the chance to be diplomatic in the issue. You do not have to worry about me coming to your restaurant again. I am in retrospect incredibly sorry I made the mistake of trying to return.

    That being said, I would like to talk to you in person regarding the accessibility of your establishment to avoid this type of thing from happening to someone else. I have no ill will towards you… and I understand that you are trying to protect your business and your family. I think both sides could have handled the situation a bit better.

    Call me if you’d care to discuss this any further. 404-4xx-xxxx

    Preston Craig


  7. beth (unregistered) on January 7th, 2006 @ 9:10 pm

    Preston sounds like one big jerk. Thanks for showing us both sides of this story.


  8. paul (unregistered) on January 8th, 2006 @ 12:19 am

    I wrote Preston. Preston wrote back. I hope this can help in some way:

    I wrote:

    Sir,
    I would like to say to you a few things that perhaps it is even silly to think would in anyway change you or the world. I’m no reactionist writer with motives. But, on the subject of you, you should cheer up a bit. Please bear with me as I struggle to explain why:
    I was at the resteraunt when this incident you described was taking place. I was doin my side work and having a little coffee. I work at the majestic. Mostly the night shift, and have since around last April. I got the job through my sister’s best friend Alix who worked there at the time. I was 22 and had just moved back from New York after changing my mind about moving there.
    I am poor, sir. I grew up in Marietta in a middle class (not upper middle class or anything) family. when i was 17 my step mother died in a car accident involving alcohol. I had to drop out of school in an attempt to help the rest of my family, while the woman who raised me was in the hospital for a month or so before dying of organ failure, after numerous operations that were made trying to save her life.
    After this, my father lost his job and moved away with my younger sister. My older sister struggled working and going to school here, and now in New York. And I am still not sure where i should be. I can’t go home to mommy and daddy.
    After blowing all my money (which isn’t much) in 2004, i found myself sitting in the Majestic with $7 dollars and only a quarter tank of gas left in my soon to be broken down car. Based on Alix’s word to Tasso, I was given a job on the spot. It saved my life. I started working the next night. Now i have a comfortable life in a warm clean house in the Grant Park neighboorhood after working at the diner for less than a year.
    I have worked many jobs in my short life thus far. I have worked in different cities doing different things for different amounts of money. I had only planned to stay at the Majestic for about two months, and look for another job. I told myself (after working part time in bars, coffee houses and resteraunts between here and New York City)i would not wait tables or work any other job where i am disrespected by the often drunk or otherwise intoxicated masses all day and all night. However, i changed my mind because the ownership of the Majestic makes me proud as hell to work there. I am treated like family, by a family, who doesn’t have to.
    I am not a bitter person. I don’t want to anger you. There is no reason for anyone to ever pity me. I do want you to realize that bad things happen to people. At least you can leave the Decatur Social Club to go someplace like the Majestic at 3 or 4 in the morning to sober up before you go home to sleep in. Not everyone can do that. The reason you can though, is because there are people working themselves crazy at the majestic before, during and after you are DJing with your i-pod in downtown Decatur.
    Working the third shift takes alot outa me. People often neglect to realize that diner staff are not always greeted warmly by everyone who enters the door between 10pm and 6am. I say hello to hundreds of people everyday, just to be friendly and because i’m in love with life. Not everyone says hello back. Not everyone cares that most of us our trying to do our job. People don’t really say “please” that much in my life anymore. Few even ask, most command.
    I surrender myself to this late night routine for several reasons.
    -Tasso and his father are good hardworking gentlemen with open hearts and strong work values.
    -Alot of people that come in actually are quite pleasant.
    -My co-workers are almost always helping or offering to help eachother.
    -I enjoy making bulleted lists to express how i feel about it.
    -The Majestic saved my life.

    Now sir, I work first second and third shifts at the majestic, and see a fair share of people during the day. Some of these people have problems. Some of them can change these problems. Some of them cannot. I wait on blind people and guide them in anyway that i can. We have written conversaions with deaf people. We get doors for those with walkers (and sometimes those without). We have mentally impared customers that we assist. We really aren’t all that bad. We even wait on people in wheel chairs. that’s why there is a ramp in the front enterance.
    By the way, you sir have a very large wheel chair. When i saw you sitting in the resteraunt it was the first thing i noticed. I then recognized you. I have seen you here and there over the last few years. You carelessly bumped into me as i was standing still and looking away at a few rock shows in the past. I have waited on you at other establishments when i worked in ye ole East Atlanta Village a few years back. I bet that chair cost someone alot of money. If i were to lose the use of my legs, I would not have a ride like yours. You should cheer up. Life’s not so bad.
    As for the situation that occured between you and my boss. I watched it attentively. I was that skinny boy rolling the silverware at the table across form you. The way you described it is a bit different than what actually happened in my eyes. You were disrespectful to your elder, a man who works harder than anyone I’ve met and the owner of a business that only refuses to help those who are unreasonable. And if you recall, you were waited on until you left our establishment regardless of the fact that you acted inappropriately by returning to it in the first place.
    It is silly and narcasistic for you to compare yourself to civil rights leaders. It is very, very inappropriate for you to throw around the word “nigger”. And it hurts me that you would declare a family owned and opperated business that hires it’s employees and treats it’s customers on a policy that in no way discriminates against race, gender, sexual orientation, income, or any of that other stuff to be a place of biggotry.
    Please think a bit before you say things that are so abbrasive and selfish. I don’t believe you to be a martyr anymore than i believe myself to be a saxaphone player. Such a baseless attack is only going to mislead those who believe you and diminish your credibility before those who know the truth.
    I think maybe you should think about how you are going to appologize. That’s the only way i see you coming out of this a better person. It would be alot better than attacking a bunch of hardworking men and women’s workplace because you are in a bad mood.

    Good Luck Sir,
    Paul Edwin Harper

    Preston wrote:

    Paul, I appreciate you writing me and giving me your perspective on
    things. I’m a bit disturbed by your impression of me. As it seems
    that you’re putting a lot of emphasis on my social standing.

    Like you I was poor as well. Luckily, by some grace of god I was
    never on food stamps, but things got really difficult for a long
    while. My mother lost her job due to her disability… my father hit
    a bad time during the recession of the 90’s. Being self employed he
    had nothing to fall back on. I worked from the time I was 15… I
    managed to get govt assistance to go to college. I was good with
    computers and made it into a good career.

    My chair… yes it’s big. I’m 6’4. In fact it’s a little too small
    for me. The one I’m in now is the first chair I ever used when I was
    19 years old. It’s been repaired countless times. It’s left me
    stranded in foreign cities. It’s really not as fancy as you think.
    It did cost a lot of money. All wheelchairs do. However, medical
    insurance paid for it. I had no choice but to get out and find a
    good job… because no one else was going to take care of me. My
    parents would have managed… but that’s not the person I am. I
    can’t exactly run back to mommy and daddy as you’d say. The first
    day of my first job I came home realizing I made more money at my
    first job than my dad had in any of his.

    If I’ve bumped into you at shows… I apologize. I usually say
    excuse me or sorry… but most of the time it’s not heard or
    acknowledged. I’m 30 inches wide, motor driven, and weigh 500lbs…
    if I accidentally graze someone… they tend to notice more than some
    normal person brushing past them.

    I’m very happy that the Majestic saved your life. We’ve all got
    someone that comes through for us.

    My issue with the Majestic lies with the owners… I’ve got no qualms
    with the other staff to this point. Was I rude to you or the
    waitress? I’m still a bit shocked that you interpreted me as
    mouthing off… because I didn’t say much of anything… except for
    trying to explain myself and calm him down.

    But like i said in the comment on metblog… would this have been an
    issue… if in the past 16 years… they had made some other
    accommodations. Poured a ramp, reconfigured entrances, anything to
    meet basic accessibility guidelines… would this have happened? I
    mean do you really think I’m the type of person that just flies off
    the handle when i’m “i a bad mood?” I was in an incredibly good mood
    both nights we had incidents. I meet some major obstacle every
    single day. It’s in my nature just to find the easiest way around
    it. In this case I had a group of friends occupying a table I
    couldn’t get to… I found my own way to it. It’s just not often
    that I encounter a management that fights back rather than working to
    overcome that obstacle.

    And no… in my opinion one booth at the front of the restaurant
    doesn’t count. I’m researching the actual legal requirements of
    accessibility in this situation. If I’m wrong… we’ll go from there.


  9. Mr. T (unregistered) on January 8th, 2006 @ 8:50 pm

    I wasn’t there, so clearly this is a leap, but I’ve yet to see anyone address whether or not Preston was drinking. That would certainly affect 1) his behavior and 2) his recollection of his behavior. I bring it up because I cannot recall the last time I went to the Majestic sober, especially at 4am.

    Otherwise, I’d say Preston has a justifiable (and potentially legal) bitch that the Majestic only has one wheelchair spot in the joint. He is essentially not allowed to eat with anyone in the smoking section…and we all know that sucks when you’re all trashed at 4am.

    On the other hand, if you’re banned from an establishment, why in the hell would you go back? Don’t give me this nonsense about a friend of a friend said the owner didn’t mind. It’s common sense that if you understood that they didn’t want you back, you would talk to someone directly before you came back. That the people there recognized you and were upset is your problem, not theirs. I think you’re lucky they didn’t have you arrested…that would’ve been my concern if I came back to a place where I was explicitly told I was not welcome.

    I’m not even gonna get started on the whole nigger thing on Preston’s blog. That’s just silliness.


  10. tasso (unregistered) on January 8th, 2006 @ 10:56 pm

    We have at least a couple of places for customers in wheelchairs at the front of the restaurant and we’ve actually accommodated two wheelchair customers (who were in different parties) at the same time with no problems….as far as the smoking section thing goes—since the smoking ban, the restaurant’s been totally non-smoking.



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