A decades-old burger joint closed after being sued over wheelchair access, saying its landlord wouldn't pay for a ramp

  • A family-run business shut down after 38 years following a disability access lawsuit.

  • The owners say they proposed adding a wheelchair ramp, but that the landlord said it was too expensive.

  • Noncompliance with the ADA can result in a fine of up to $75,000 for a first-time offense.

A family-run burger joint in Richmond, California, closed on Thursday after 38 years of business, citing a lawsuit over a lack of wheelchair access as a contributing factor.

In their closure announcement, the owners mentioned a recent lawsuit as having "taken a toll" on the burger joint.

They also mentioned the challenges of COVID-19 and inflation.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California in January this year, was brought by a paraplegic plaintiff who accused the restaurant owners and landlord of discriminating against him by not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ADA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, meaning businesses need to make their premises accessible for wheelchair users.

Noncompliance with the ADA can result in fines of up to $75,000 for a first-time offense, and legal bills that can reach into the thousands.

George Koliavas, one of the owners of the Great American Hamburger & Pie Co., told SFGATE that he and his wife had proposed adding a wheelchair ramp by the entrance to the decades-old restaurant to address the accessibility issue.

But he said their landlord rejected the solution, saying it would cost too much.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff said a "high threshold" stopped him from entering the restaurant in October 2023. He said he felt like an "outcast" because he could not eat his hamburger inside the restaurant "like able-bodied persons."

The lawsuit also said that when he returned in December, he encountered the same inaccessible entrance, which prevented him from entering again.

The lawsuit and accompanying legal fees proved a challenge too big to surpass for the owners, who decided to shutter the business.

"It's frustrating, and you get to a point where you say, 'You know what, forget it,'" Koliavas told SFGATE.

Expressing his frustration, Koliavas told SFGATE: "It seems like the chain reaction is that the landlord doesn't want to do anything, and it comes down on the small businesses."

According to the National Restaurant Association's 2024 State of the Restaurant Industry report, rising food and labor costs are making it increasingly difficult for restaurants to make a profit.

The association estimated a 20% success rate overall for the industry, meaning most restaurants fail.

According to the local newspaper, the burger joint was set up by Helen Koliavas' parents in 1986, and the couple took over the business in 2010.

"We're going to miss the community and our great customers," George Koliavas told SFGATE, noting that some patrons had been visiting since they were kids.

Read the original article on Business Insider