Toronto cat cafe closes following wheelchair dispute
A popular, family-run cat café in midtown Toronto has closed its doors to the public following several high-profile incidents in which people with disabilities say they were denied entry.
Meow Cat Café, a Korean pet supply store and coffee shop on Mount Pleasant, first came under fire on Friday when Global News published the story of 16-year-old Jacob Trossman's failed attempt to visit their nine friendly cats.
Trossman, who uses a wheelchair, had planned on going to the café for his birthday last weekend, but was told upon arrival that he could not come in on account of a no-wheelchair policy.
As a proud cat mom I'm here to say this is ABLEISM 100%. There are ways to support both customers using wheelchairs AND keep cats safe. #tostpauls. I hope to be able to connect with both the family & cafe owner. #communitystrong https://t.co/dR944r405O— JILL ANDREW (@JILLSLASTWORD) August 10, 2018
The shop's owners allegedly said at the time that they had special permission from the government to refuse wheelchairs — despite all existing accessibility laws — as wheels could pose a threat to their in-house felines.
She also said that Toronto Police had given her the right to refuse customers, that her priority is the cats (all of which she personally owns) and that she would rather close the café than allow wheelchairs inside.
Meow Cat Cafe discriminates against wheelchair users, which is illegal. Also, seems they had terrible customer service even before they decided to be super ableist. Owner threatens to close the cafe rather than serve wheelchair users. Let's see it, then. https://t.co/LaW1wMfoub— âpihtawikosisân (@apihtawikosisan) August 10, 2018
Trossman's mother described the move as discriminatory — and she was far from the only person who would do so, as Meow Cat Café would soon find out.
People on Twitter and Facebook started decrying the cafe's owners as ableist almost as soon as Global's story came out.
Paralympian Jeff Adams, who lives in Toronto, took it upon himself to visit the business on Friday afternoon after learning of Trossman's experience.
Adams, also a law student, documented his visit in a series of videos on Twitter, reporting that the shop's owner "took all the cats and three patrons into the back and closed the doors" after he came in.
At the Meow Cafe, this young man stepped up for me. pic.twitter.com/YLcDVf3tsf— Jeff Adams (@JeffAdamsmania) August 11, 2018
A video shot and uploaded to Facebook by Adams' partner, Maggie Dort, shows one of the café owners arguing with Adams over accessibility laws.
Even as cats moosh against his wheelchair and try to jump into his lap, the younger owner swats them away so Adams can't touch the animals.
At one point, an older woman comes out from behind the cash register and snatches Dort's phone from her hands. The younger woman proceeds to call 911 and explain that her cats aren't trained to follow wheels.
"We stayed for quite a while longer but no police ever showed up," wrote Dort in the caption of her Facebook post. "I wonder why."
Majority of customers walked out. One woman refused to be served until I was served and allowed in - ended up leaving and telling the owner she'd never come back. One kid lied and said he was a law student, and took up for me by making up legal citations. #thankskidbutIgotthis— Jeff Adams (@JeffAdamsmania) August 10, 2018
On Saturday, midtown residents started sharing photos on Facebook and Twitter of a sign posted to the door of Meow Cat Café.
The two-page-long letter says that, because of Global's news report, "people with wheelchairs came in obstinately" on Friday and injured "many cats" who went to the hospital.
"Those people said that they could do whatever they want to do, and then continue to use the wheelchairs, even though the cats keep going under the wheels!" reads the note.
"As a result, the cats are in a state of too much stress and anxiety," it continues. "We don't know these cats will ever come back in this danger."
In their letter, the women also accuse Global News reporter Matthew Bingley of circulating false facts, failing to tell the truth, and disregarding them because "we are weak women and Asians who don't speak English well."
As of Wednesday afternoon, Meow Cat Café appears to be closed. Calls to the store are going unanswered. The store's owners have yet to respond to any requests for comment.
Meanwhile, their Facebook page is filling up with horrendous reviews from people who disagree with what many are calling an illegal and discriminatory wheelchair policy.
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