Thursday, May 1, 2008

Deb Takes on Buddy LaRosa

With the great sauce, yummy mixture of cheese and unbelievable toppings, why would I want to take on an establishment as hallowed and revered, an establishment that is as much Cincinnati as Skyline Chili, you ask?

On Monday evening, our family went out to dinner to celebrate our Princess's fourth adoption anniversary. We always go out for pizza to celebrate this child's anniversary in honor of all the pizza Rob and I ate while staying for a month in Almaty, Kazakhstan. We ate, often to say the least, at the highly western Patio Pizza, which also has a franchise in both Moscow and Kyiv. Our favorite pizza was "Pizza Melanoma" , which didn't give you cancer, but was supposed to remind us of food served in Milan. So there the tradition started.

This year we settled on a family outing to LaRosa's. Our kids were very excited because the only time they ever see the inside of a restaurant is when we're traveling or celebrating someone's adoption day. Each kid picked their own individual pizza, and Green Bottle Boy was happy with his spicy sausage, banana pepper, pepperoni, jalepeno pizza. His brother was hoping to find a new roommate before the pizza hit Green Bottle Boy's digestive system. Other than that, though, we had a great time.

Towards the end Nappy proudly announced, "MOM, I need to go potty." I was thrilled that she was telling me before she went, and we happily wheeled to the bathroom, only to find that it was not handicapped accessible.

Now, it wasn't a problem for us, because I could just pick her up and set her on the toilet, leaving her wheelchair out of the restroom. However, it occurred to me that in a few years it would be a problem, and that there were thousands of my fellow citizens that this would pose a problem for.

Grant it, if you have difficulty using public restrooms, you should always go before you leave the house (which we always have our girls do), but there are times when you have to go no matter how far in advance you plan. People who use wheelchairs aren't equipped with fancier bladders than the rest of us, so there are times when you just gotta go.

Plus, as most people know, if you're going to each much of what's on LaRosa's menu, you should probably have a toilet nearby.

All this led me to wonder: aren't wheelchair users a valued customer of LaRosa's?

I called to find out, and the answer was a resounding: NO.

They claim that they are grandfathered into not needing to make the bathrooms wheelchair accessible, and if they're not legally responsible to, then they are not going to do it. That mentality says much about the priorities of the LaRosa Empire. Of course, I know that it's really shaky ground as far as the Americans With Disabilities Act goes -- they're hardly a non-profit organization, and the remodeling necessary to make a wheelchair accessible toilet would hardly tax their company. I also have to wonder what kind of legal trouble they'd get into with the health department as they are not providing adequate toilet facilities to their customers. However, I don't think the legal route is a way to fight their moral ignorance.

I believe that legal ramifications are important but there are two bigger issues here. The first is that LaRosa's doesn't care that they are discriminating against wheelchair users. However, if they put up a sign that said, "Black People May Not Use This Restroom", then all hell would break loose (as well it should). Or if they put up a sign that said, "Only People Who Speak English May Use This Restroom" there'd be protests to no end. In effect, without words, they've done the same thing to wheelchair users. They don't need to put up a sign that says they can't use the bathroom; they simply let their physical barriers do the work for them.

The other issue is the mindset of a company that professes to support our city with goodwill. The ADA passed years ago in the early 1990s, so, in the course of all these years, LaRosa's has seen fit to pour thousands of dollars into high school atheltics, but not to make their restrooms handicapped accessible. This from a company owned by a family that professes a Christian faith. It would seem that they would be more concerned with supporting the most vulnerable (those that Jesus sought after and ministered to) than throwing money away towards sports -- of course, quietly converting bathrooms for usage by wheelchair users won't get you any publicity.

So, our family has officially boycotted LaRosa's and we're asking all Cincinnatians that care a hoot about making our society truly inclusive to do the same. I realize that not every physical barrier can be removed, and I realize that there are SOME organizations that can't produce the money to make their buildings accessible, but truly, the money's there, LaRosa's just doesn't want to bother. They're banking on the fact that people will buy their pizza no matter what. They're believing that Cincinnatians care more about garlic crust, philly steak calzones and supporting outstanding athletes than about living in a city that values each individual.

When we entered LaRosa's, my husband told our little Swimmer Girl, "Maybe someday your photo will be up here with the other high school athletes."

But the truth is that Swimmer Girl has got far too much dignity to ever allow her photo to grace the walls of an establishment that won't let her sister use their toilet.


Rob A. said...

Way to go, Deb! I agree wholeheartedly and I will support your boycott. I will also strongly encourage my friends and family to do the same.

Joyce Seagle said...

et that is posted on this site?


Deb said...

Dad --



MarlaQuack said...

When I stopped eating sugar I stopped eating at Larosa's. Nothing on the menu is without sugar except the iced tea.