Monday, June 27, 2011

Open Letter to Old Chicago

Dear Old Chicago,

I am part of a group of local swing dancers that has been meeting at your restaurant weekly for at least five years after our Sunday night dance. For years, Old Chicago has been a friendly and comfortable place for our group to meet-up, eat, chat and play board and party games on Sunday nights. We are on first name basis and friendly terms with all the regular Sunday night servers and the manager.

For the last six to eight months, a friend who happens to have epilepsy has been a part of our weekly gatherings. Her epileptic seizures can be triggered by both light and sound. Old Chicago is well lit and the only flashing lights are the occasional police cars passing by on the street and the red light camera at the nearby intersection. One of the sounds that triggers epileptic seizures is frequently found in music: the synthetic, deep thudding bass common in a few musical genres. During the first several months, there were very few issues and when a troublesome song came on it was a matter of simply requesting the bartender to change the song to one without the synthetic bass sound.

Two months ago, the manager on duty took issue with the request to change the music being played and came to explain to us why coming out to Old Chicago with epilepsy and expecting music that won't trigger a seizure is like coming to a pizza place and expecting gluten-free food. Furthermore he explained that all their music is on a set of playlists selected by corporate and the individual store has no control over what is on the playlists and they cannot predict what music would be played. We requested that the music in the main dining room be shut off (while leaving the music playing in the bar intact) if suitable music could not be played and were told that corporate required music to be playing at all times and if a customer complained (we were the only customers not in the bar) they would get in trouble, and also that they can't prevent customers in the bar from selecting music on the Jukebox.

Two months, numerous song change requests, and a second manager later we finally received the business cards of the Store's General Manager and the Regional Manager; just in time for two "bad" songs in a row to trigger six major seizures (full body tremors) in the space of half an hour. During which time, one of the other members of the group is on the phone with the Regional Manager attempting to get the music changed or shut off and in lieu of that accommodation arrange a face to face meeting between our seizing and currently non-verbal friend and the Regional Manager.

Is it really so difficult or unreasonable for music without the synthetic bass to be played during the hours of Midnight and 2:00am on a Sunday night?

In the past, Old Chicago has been a friendly and fun place for our group to hang out but it certainly isn't the only option available to us. We'll be saddened by the end of an era but the health of our friend is far more important than loyalty to an establishment that is unable to make reasonable accommodations for a life threatening medical condition. For those reasons we shall be taking our business across the street to Denny's.


Allisyn Bridges
The Swing Dancers from the Corner Booth

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