The Food Is Great, But How’s the Accessibility? Feds File Suit Against Rosa Mexicano For ADA Violations

rosamexicana The Food Is Great, But Hows the Accessibility? Feds File Suit Against Rosa Mexicano For ADA Violations

The U.S. Attorney’s office claims that not everyone can enjoy the food at Rosa Mexicana. (mlaca005.wordpress.com)

Rosa Mexicana is a favorite of New Yorkers hungry for upscale guacamole and well-mixed margaritas, but the restaurant has not been sitting well with the U.S. Attorney’s office, which has filed suit against the popular eatery for non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The restaurant is the first “most popular” Zagat pick to be sued for ADA non-compliance after the U.S. Attorney’s office launched an initiative targeting the guide’s 50 most beloved eateries last year. In its 2012 guide, Zagat called the restaurant, which has three Manhattan locations, a “jumping” joint that “gets it right” with “flavorful” food and “personable service.” But the feds claim that the restaurants’ entrances, waiting areas, dining rooms, bars and bathrooms get it wrong, blocking disabled diners from enjoying the hot spot’s South of the Border cuisine.

“When it comes to restaurants, New York City is arguably the world’s crown jewel, and the purpose of this initiative is to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to its offerings. With today’s lawsuit alleging multiple violations of the ADA at three Rosa Mexicano locations in the City, that is exactly what we are doing,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a release about the lawsuit. “As alleged, neither the ADA, nor the warnings from this Office were enough to convince these restaurants to comply with the law, and the goal of this lawsuit is to see that they finally do.”

The government claims that Rosa Mexicana lacks an accessible entrance at its First Avenue location and accessible bathrooms at all three locations. And while the restaurant offers alternate entrances for those with disabilities at its Lincoln Center and Union Square locations, both are non-compliant in several respects, the suit alleges. At the Lincoln Center location, patrons with disabilities are directed to an adjacent building to use the restroom, which is still not compliant, according to the suit. Nor does the bar area have any lowered tables or bar areas suitable for use by those in wheelchairs.

Rosa Mexicana, however, takes issue with both the Department of Justice’s inaccessibility claims and the premise of an initiative that targets eateries on the basis of their popularity rather than focusing on restaurants that have had complaints filed against them—the basis of most ADA lawsuits.

“We certainly disagree with the allegations, as well as the DOJ’s decision to use the list as an arbiter of what to investigate,” Carolyn D. Richmond, the attorney for Rosa Mexicana, told The Observer.

Ms. Richmond said that the restaurant had been co-operating with the DOJ throughout its investigation and despite disagreeing with the suits’ allegations, would continue to do so.

“Rosa Mexicana is very proud of their reputation in the city. They take the diversity of their guests and staff very seriously,” she added.

Restaurants that were targeted as part of the initiative were asked to reply to a survey, with compliance officers visiting a select number of locations to confirm the accuracy of those responses. And while other locations were found to be have non-compliance issues, no others have yet been sued as part of the initiative.

kvelsey@observer.com