MS sufferer mistakenly thrown out of pub for being '˜drunk'
Pub chain Wetherspoons has apologised to a multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer after a bouncer threw him out after accusing him of being drunk.
Wheelchair-bound John Geraghty, 58, from Barton-le-Clay, was ordered to leave the boozer when his body slumped forward due to a lack of muscle control.
The former teacher was with his carer who tried to explain John’s medical difficulties, but was told “I’m not a medical person” by the doorman who then ordered them out.
John has blasted the firm over their lack of empathy for disabled customers after learning two Asperger’s sufferers were last year refused entry to the same bar after also being told they “looked drunk”.
He said: “There’s this perception that if you’re in a wheelchair that there’s something wrong with your brain.
“My condition means that sometimes my body slumps forward and there’s nothing I can do about it. But because I’m in a wheelchair people think I’m mentally deficient.
“He (the security guard) was looking at me like I was an embarrassment. He made me feel terrible. I’m actually highly educated. My brain is better than every other part of my body.
“It was a really unpleasant experience and not one I’d like other people with disabilities to experience.”
John was diagnosed with MS in 2013 – an autoimmune disease which damages the nervous system’s ability to communicate with the brain and spinal cord.
He had spent £1,650 on a 10-day trip to Brighton for him and his carer Ross Scrivener, 68, over Christmas when they visited the Wetherspoons Bright Helm pub for a meal on December 30.
They’d struggled to find other eateries in the town with disabled access but John claims they were insulted almost immediately after entering the pub.
“We went in for dinner and as we got to the door three burly security guards came over before one asked if I was drunk,” he said.
“Ross told him, ‘of course he’s not drunk’ before saying, ‘he’s got MS, it’s a severe form’.
“This man turned around and just said, “I said I’m not a medical person’, before asking us to leave. We were both humiliated and could not believe it.
“Even at the door, Ross pleaded with him and told him there was nowhere else for us to go but he just said ‘no’.”
John, who used to teach English and Religious Education to secondary school pupils, claims the doorman also accused him of being “inappropriately dressed”, after he turned up in shorts and long socks.
He hit back at the remark, claiming it’s too painful for him to wear trousers due to the sensitive nerve endings in his legs.
“He said I was inappropriately dressed,” said John, who has written three books since his diagnosis.
“I can’t wear anything but shorts because the nerve endings in my legs make it too painful.
“My body can’t control temperature either so I’m better cold than I am hot.
“Why would someone in a wheelchair be wearing shorts in the middle of winter? Why would I not have shoes on and why would I be wearing ridiculous looking socks?
“It was dreadful. Neither of us were in any way rude and we told him it was the only place we could eat because everywhere else didn’t have ramps or lifts.
He just told us to go away.”
Following the incident, Wetherspoons apologised to John, and Ross, and said it will now re-train its staff to make them more aware of MS.
A spokesman for Wetherspoons said: “We apologise to Mr Geraghty and also to his carer.
“Door staff at the pub genuinely believed he was intoxicated and for that reason refused him entry.
“However, we appreciate that was not the case, and that the decision rightly upset Mr Geraghty.
“We will be retraining our staff at The Bright Helm on this issue and also making staff at our other 900 plus pubs across the UK better aware of MS, so that this situation does not arise again.”
Wetherspoons claimed the two male Asperger’s sufferers denied entry last year did not have ID and said one swore as he approached the door.
Ian Fannon is Assistant Director of External Affairs at the MS Society said: “It’s really appalling to hear about what happened to John Geraghty. Unfortunately, we know this sort of experience is all too common.
“Last year we surveyed more than 1,000 people with MS about the mistreatment and stigma they’d faced as a result of their condition and found half had mistakenly been accused of being drunk.
“MS is unpredictable and challenging to live with and this stigma and misunderstanding is making life even harder for many of the 100,000 people in the UK with the condition.
“We’re really pleased to hear that staff are going to get some training to make them more aware of MS and we hope this will be a wake-up call for pubs around the country.”