By Andrew Shortall
2:30 PM PST, November 7, 2012
A longtime activist for the rights of disabled people has sued Fred's Mexican Café and the Pierside Pavilion complex in Huntington Beach for alleged failures to comply with state and federal disability laws and with the state's civil rights law and health and safety code.
Costa Mesa resident Christie Rudder filed the lawsuit July 2 accusing Fred's and Pierside Pavilion of failing "in their obligation to provide disabled persons … with full and equal access to their goods and services." The complaints come from a series of visits Rudder, who uses a wheelchair for mobility purposes, paid the establishment at 300 Pacific Coast Hwy. between Nov. 13, 2010, and the winter and spring of 2011 while it was under renovation.
Patricia Barbosa, one of Rudder's attorneys, said both defendants have responded to the lawsuit and are working toward a resolution. Rudder has filed a number of similar lawsuits against establishments like Balboa Island and the CBS game show "Let's Make a Deal," Barbosa said.
"We are moving forward to determine the barriers and make a demand for the barriers to be fixed," said Barbosa, a civil rights attorney with 20 years of experience. "This is a lawsuit regarding an inability to access the restaurant, for failing to remove barriers and for policies that are in place regarding where people in wheelchairs are placed to sit."
Rudder came to Fred's several times because she enjoys the food and views and would have visited more but "has been deterred from doing so due to the ongoing access issues and discriminatory policies she has experienced," according to the lawsuit.
Rudder claims Fred's was unable to readily accommodate her and three of her friends when she first dined there, as her party was seated at a makeshift "segregated" area on the patio because many of the tables inside were high-pedestal style tables. The lawsuit also states there wasn't enough space for her to navigate through the restaurant to the restroom without having to ask other customers to move aside.
The lawsuit also claims Pierside Pavilion isn't fully and equally accessible to wheelchair users and its parking structure doesn't offer sufficient handicap parking or a handicap entrance.
"Every case has the potential to go to court, but at this stage the defendants are working with us to come to a resolution," Barbosa said. "We want to make sure Fred's is more available and open to everyone, we don't want to do anything that would damage Fred's, but at the same time we want to make sure these things are fixed."