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Old 05-16-2006, 07:08 AM   #1
jfrenaye
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I think this speaks for itself!

Quote:
Hilton screws hundreds at Fran O'Brien's in DC Email Print

By 8ackgr0und N015e
04/22/2006 10:55:54 PM EST
There are a lot of people who say "I support the troops," put a yellow ribbon on their car, or hang a star in their window.* The owners and staff of Fran O'Brien's Steak House have gone WAY beyond the call when it comes to showing their support.

Since October of 2003 Marty O'Brien and Hal Koster have been providing a free "Friday Night out on the Town" at Fran O'Briens Stadium Steak House for thousands of severely injured soldiers and marines who are recuperating at nearby Walter Reed Army Hospital and Bethesda Naval Medical Center.* Hal, a Vietnam vet, and his partner Marty, have made it a policy that they will continue to do this ... UNTIL THE LAST SOLDIER WOUNDED IN THIS CONFLICT HAS GONE HOME FROM WALTER REED AND BETHESDA.

That is stunning.* What is even more stunning is how their landlord, Hilton Hotel Corp., responded.* Hilton Hotel Corporation served Fran O'Brien's with an eviction notice.* Why? Hilton doesn't want to spend the money to provide equal access for disabled people.* That's just the beginning.....

When I first read about this, I wrote a letter to Thomas Keltner, Vice President of Branding Performance for Hilton Hotel Corp. and Jeff Diskin, Senior Vice President for Brand Management & Marketing.* I received a polite, but unresponsive form letter in return.* That is when I called Hal Koster to get the facts of the situation.* What he told me is outrageous.*

This complementary dinner is an elaborate affair with an open bar, accompanied by a full steak dinner with all the trimmings including desert. After dinner comfort packages are provided to each of the soldiers and full steak dinners are provided for other soldiers and family members back at the hospital who couldn't make it that night. All of this at absolutely no cost to the soldiers or their families or invited staff. This has been going on each Friday now for two and a half years!

Soldiers, family members, hospital staff, their doctors and nurses and some of the most senior staff physicians at both hospitals have spoken out about the therapeutic value these nights offer as part of the soldier's recovery. I also spoke with Margaret, the banquet director at Fran O'Brien's, and she told me the staff have all gotten special training to deal with the kind of disabilities they are seeing.

Let's be real frank here. When someone missing part of their jaw orders a steak, you need to prepare it especially for them, or they can't eat it.* The chef at Fran O'Brien's knows how to puree it so it tastes great and they can actually enjoy it.* Talking with Margaret, the banquet director at Fran's, it was really clear this isn't about free steaks and beer.* It's much more than that. It's about treating these men and women with respect. It's about helping them get more than a good meal. It's about helping them get some dignity.* "I've been working here for a long time. We're all like family here. When someone missing their lower jaw finally gets to enjoy a steak, we all cry," she explained.* *

Here's the situation: Fran O'Brien's is downstairs at the Capitol Hilton.* That's an important point.* We all know there is a Federal law called the Americans with Disabilities Act.* The bottom line on that piece of legislation is "equal access" for people with disabilities.* That's why we have handicapped parking.* That's why we have bathroom stalls with handrails.* That is why a lot of things are done.* Not because it's nice. They're done because it's the law.* If you have a flight of stairs leading to your restaurant, you must have "equal access" available for handicapped patrons.* It's not an option.

Here's the outrageous part:* There is an escalator that leads down to Fran O'Brien's.* IT HAS BEEN BROKEN SINCE 1998!* Hal and Marty have been fighting with Hilton to get that repaired for SIX YEARS!* Hilton has never done it.* Instead, after a few years of promising to do it, sending in engineers, etc.* Hilton BOARDED UP THE ESCALATOR. As part of their lease negotiations, the owners asked Hilton to consider putting in a lift for the disabled vets in wheelchairs. That was when they got the eviction notice.

At this point, you are probably wondering how in the world does a disabled person get into the restaurant now?* If you need to use a disabled entrance this is how you get to Fran O'Brien's:*

* 1. You have to go to the lobby of the Capitol Hilton.
* 2. Then you have to go to the security desk.
* 3. Then you have to be escorted by the security guard on duty to a coat room.*
* 4. The security guard punches in a code on the key pad and escorts you through the coat room.*
* 5. Then* he takes you to "the back of the house," as they call the service area in hotels.*
* 6. Then they escort you to the lift and take you down to the basement.*
* 7. When you get to the bottom, someone from the restaurant has to meet you and then escort you to the restaurant at the other end of the building.

Now you can eat.

A) When you finish your meal, someone from the restaurant has to contact the security desk.*
Then they have to escort you to the elevator.
C) Then they have to wait until someone from security arrives.
D) Then the person from the security desk escorts you back up to the main floor.
E) Then they take you back through the coat room, again keying in the security codes.

Now you can leave.

It's clear "equal access" means something radically different to Hilton Hotel Corp than it would to any sane individual.* Here's a simple question: What happens if there is a fire?

Here's how you can help:

If we are going to help them continue to help others, we need to generate national awareness so Hilton Hotels feels it in the only place that matters, their wallet.* Marty and Hal have not gone public with this earlier because they didn't want to screw up the already complicated lease negotiations.* Now that they have an eviction notice, they have nothing left to lose.*

Let me be crystal clear here.* As a small business owner, I am not in the business of telling other people how to run their business.* The only people who do that don't have a business of their own.* If Hilton Hotels wants to sully the Hilton brand name the way Paris Hilton has sullied the Hilton family name, that's their choice.* However, choices come with consequences.*

I know of military groups that have already cancelled events at Hilton properties in Texas and elsewhere.* It is time to support our troops and get the word out to a broader audience.* Every journey begins with a single step, but there is nothing that says that step has to lead you to a Hilton Hotel.* It is time to boycott the following hotel chains:

Conrad Hotels
Doubletree
Embassy Suites
Hampton Inn
Hampton Inn & Suites
Hilton Garden Inn
Homewood Suites
Scandic

Another way to show support is for people who do travel to pick up the stationary from their hotel room and write a letter to Hilton corporate headquarters, the local newspapers, TV and radio stations saying:

* * "I'm sending you this note from [non Hilton property] to let you know I think the way Hilton Hotel Corp. is treating the people and patrons at Fran O'Brien's Steak House in Washington DC is wrong.* I chose to stay at [non Hilton property] because I support our troops.* I simply can't get a good night's sleep at a Hilton property as long as they turn their back on severely wounded soldiers."

Mail it to:
Thomas Keltner,
Executive Vice President,
Hilton Hotel Corporation,
9336 Civic Center Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210

FAX: 310-205-4599

The Mission Statement on the Hilton Web site is:
To be the first choice of the world's travelers

Our Mission Statement needs to be equally clear:
To show Hilton that bad choices have bad consequences.

==
Mything the Point* ©:
"Examining unexamined beliefs Americans accept on faith value."
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Old 05-16-2006, 08:24 AM   #2
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I wonder if there's another side to this story. It's hard to believe Hilton, who's normally pretty sharp, when it comes to marketing, would make a gaffe this bad. On the face, this looks like one egregious decision.

From what I read, Fran O'Brien's lease ran out in December. Negotiations continued for several months and eventually Hilton, for whatever reason, threw in the towel and told the restaurant to leave. It's Hilton's space to lease to whom they please. I think calling it an eviction, which some supporters of the restaurant are calling it, is a little over the top.

What Fran O'Brien's was doing for our vets was wonderful. Hopefully they will be able to open near the Hilton, somewhere else.

There is a much larger issue here, larger than Fran O'Brien's loosing their lease, larger that the vets loosing their wonderful Friday nights, larger than Hilton's marketing stupidity. The issue is larger than an escalator to the restaurant, broken, apparently for more than a year, which the disabled and partially disabled vets could have used, instead of the stairs or freight elevator.

The issue is ADA access. What I find absolutely reprehensible about the whole sorry episode, which has been borne out by several sources, is that there is no ADA compliant access to the restaurant located in the Hilton's basement (Escalators are not ADA).

I have had several serious bouts of severe back problems over the years. At one point, I was in a wheel chair for an extended period of time, while waiting for surgery. So I know, first hand, how it feels to not have access where I needed to go. Access is better today, but there are still too many places like the Hilton, who just won't provide necessary access, even when required under the law.

I'm one of the lucky ones though, as surgery has alleviated my problems significantly. Physical and now rehabilitation therapy, still on going, helps to keep me in pretty good physical condition, but I'll probably need more surgery in a few years. Others I know are still in wheel chairs. Forgetting for a moment that the Hilton had an obligation, under the law, to provide ADA compliant access, it was the right thing to do, and Hilton hasn't done it.
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Old 05-16-2006, 09:36 AM   #3
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I agree, the whole issue here is that the law requires accessibility..
They will be required to make it accessible even if O'Briens leaves..
Unless there is more to this story, Hilton is not very smart for making O'Briens leave when they would have to make the building meet ADA guidelines either way..
I have alot of friends that are wheelchair bound and if this story is true, you won't find me at a Hilton anytime in the near future..
It actually seems surprising to me that they haven't been made to abide by the ADA laws already..
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Old 05-18-2006, 06:21 AM   #4
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I have my doubts about the accuracy of the story. An eviction notice can only be served if the restaurant is in breach of its lease. Further, there are myriad of laws which protects renters from retaliation by a landlord for exercising their rights under the law or contract. Ned's scenario is much more likely, that the lease ran out and Hilton choose not to renew it.

In commercial retail lease, i.e. stores, restaurants, etc. it is not uncommon for the landlord to receive a share of the gross receipts. That is often deciding factor in whether or not to renew a lease. Also, in commercial leases, the renter is usually responsible for making improvemens to the property. It is entirely possible that access to the restaurant was the restaurants responsibility, not Hilton's.

I'm just putting forth that this story leaves out a lot of pertinent information that is necessary before we can conclude that Hilton is the bad guy.

Regarding the ADA, ( and I'm not an ADA attorney) the ADA generally does not require you the make proactive changes to an existing property, but requires modifications and new construction to be ADA compliant.
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Old 05-18-2006, 06:46 AM   #5
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In other stories, it says that the "eviction" is actually nonrenewal at the normal end of a lease. I'm also not an ADA attorney, but there is in general no requirement to retrofit accessibility features to existing structures.
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Old 05-18-2006, 07:13 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Kairho@May 18 2006, 07:46 AM
In other stories, it says that the "eviction" is actually nonrenewal at the normal end of a lease.* I'm also not an ADA attorney, but there is in general no requirement to retrofit accessibility features to existing structures.
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I know that in Pennsylvania, what you and Clarke said about the law proactively retrofitting an existing building for accessibility is true. I have been involved with renovations of many buildings which were not ADA compliant, and didn't have to be, until renovations to the buildings were made. Once renovated, accessibility was required. There are even exceptions to that. For example, churches are generally exempt from ADA requirements.

My point in an earlier post in this topic had nothing to do with the law. It had to do with access. I find it unimaginable that a major hotel in this day and age wouldn't, on their own, provide ADA access to all guest areas, restaurants, etc.

I did say in my post, however, "Forgetting for a moment that the Hilton had an obligation, under the law, to provide ADA compliant access, it was the right thing to do, and Hilton hasn't done it."

It was my understanding from several articles which I read about the situation, before making my comments, that when Fran O'Brien's moved in there were considerable renovations made in the hotel for the restaurant. That would make it necessary for Hilton to provide ADA access, except that, I will acknowledge that accessibility laws have very fine lines about renovation requirements. So I must acknowledge, I may have been wrong about the legal requirement there, but not the moral requirement.

Keep us on our toes guys.
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Old 05-19-2006, 01:11 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ned@May 18 2006, 07:13 PM
My point in an earlier post in this topic had nothing to do with the law.* It had to do with access.* I find it unimaginable that a major hotel in this day and age wouldn't, on their own, provide ADA access to all guest areas, restaurants, etc.

I did say in my post, however, "Forgetting for a moment that the Hilton had an obligation, under the law, to provide ADA compliant access, it was the right thing to do, and Hilton hasn't done it."
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Actually, I don't find it hard to imagine at all. The layout of certain older buildings makes some renovations very expensive, to the point of a temporary cessation of business. I have found many older building in San Francisco that don't have ramps, elevators, etc.
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Old 05-19-2006, 06:28 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by clarkef@May 19 2006, 02:11 AM
Actually, I don't find it hard to imagine at all.* The layout of certain older buildings makes some renovations very expensive, to the point of a temporary cessation of business.* I have found many older building in San Francisco that don't have ramps, elevators, etc.
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In addition, many noncity and resort hotels feature activities and places which just don't lend themselves to ADA access. Trying to extend 100% access is just plain foolish and possibly disruptive to the rest of society.

Examples are places with rough terrain, such as creeks, canyons, and crags. Or often (though not always) inappropriate activities such as scuba diving, horseback riding, and go kart racing. And even places where access would be an imposition such as moderate to difficult hiking trails.

We are doing well in this respect (for example, many easy walking trails are accessible) and are doing better. But don't hold your breath for 100% equal access.
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