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Disabled man turned away from music venue

Dave Hodgkinson outside Soul Suite in Blackpool
Dave Hodgkinson outside Soul Suite in Blackpool Image credit: manchestereveningnews.co.uk

A dispute has broken out between friends of a disabled man who was turned away from a bar and the venue managers after he was refused entry to the premises.

Dave Hodgkinson has Motor Neurone Disease which affects his movements, when he was not allowed in Soul Suite, a music venue in Blackpool, his group of mates believed it was because he appeared drunk because of his disability.

The 56-year-old from Natwich, Cheshire, has to wear ‘foot-up’ leg strings beneath his trousers to help him walk since being diagnosed with the condition in February.

When he arrived at Soul Suite on May 28 with his friends they were stopped at the entrance by door staff.

Dave, who is used to being mistaken for having too much to drink, lifted his jeans to show the bouncers he had to wear leg strings because of his condition.

The group were kept outside whilst security fetched the manager who told them Dave did not fit the dress code to gain entry.

Dave’s friend, Stephen, told Manchester Evening News: "We are disgusted. We have been coming to Soul Suite for 10 times almost 20 years. We came here to enjoy ourselves, as my friend has recently been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, when we were turned away.

"We've been in there so many times with jeans, trainers and shorts on and I actually took a picture of people in the bar dressed like that on that evening.

"The outside area wasn't full and we couldn't understand why the manager's attitude was so flippant. We understand that mistakes can be made however after Dave's condition was explained there was a chance to apologise but this wasn't taken and instead we were told it was because of the way were dressed.

"I wanted to cry but I was also fuming. It's the first time Dave had ever felt treated differently after his diagnosis.

"I didn't want to have to but I tagged them in a social media post with an explanation of what happened on the night we were out and there hasn't been any response since."

Dave, who has been training for a priest for the past two years, was wearing a religious top spreading God’s Love when he was turned away from the venue.

He said:  "They could see we weren't trouble makers and I only had two pints in me.

"We'd been to Soul Suite only about three weeks before. I lifted my jeans up to show the straps, to which the manager then said it was because of the dress code after 7pm, although we were there earlier.

"It's just upsetting really that a business we have supported for so many years would treat us this way.

"We went on to the Townsman on Topping Street and they were so welcoming - to the point where one of my leg strings snapped and Terry who works there drove home to get glue so it could be repaired!

"Part of why we all went out was for us to all enjoy spending time together. There's a possibility with Motor Neurone Disease that it could stay in my legs and not go any further, however after the first 12 months it could progress so I want to get out while I'm out and about.

"I'm not giving up hope and I will carry on enjoying what I can and stay positive.

"I'm not in the habit of trying to destroy businesses and I'm not telling people to boycott Soul Suite as after the horrendous 12 months the hospitality sector has had no one deserves that.

"I practice forgiveness with my beliefs and I understand that mistakes can be made and we learn from them.

"Often people can wear a badge to show hidden disabilities and this issue needs to be raised so people can understand better that things like this can happen, so all I want is for them to hold their hands up, acknowledge this was an error and they maybe buy me a pint and that's it.

"Overall we had a lovely time in Blackpool, staff at the Little Black Pug bar were amazing, as were so many others, and we will continue to come back to the town."

Dave Hodgkinson now grows and sells potted plants.