Clubber turned away from Tokyo Lincoln because of wheelchair
RICHARD Sargent had hoped for a happy night out in Lincoln with friends as he bade them farewell before they departed back to university.
But his evening was marred when door staff refused him access to the city's hottest new nightclub, citing a lack of provision for his wheelchair.
Former North Kesteven School pupil Mr Sargent, who last year helped Great Britain win silver at the under-23 European Championships and acts as an ambassador for Lincolnshire Sports Partnership, said: "It really upsets me that Lincoln does so much to promote disabled sports in the city but when facilities aren't accessible it undoes all that good work.
"It sends a really negative message to disabled people in Lincoln and feels like we take five steps forward and ten steps back.
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"We do so well in terms of encouraging disabled sports and disabled people to be part of the community and yet things like this still happen. It's such a shame."
Mr Sargent took up wheelchair basketball four months after a car crash in 2001 which, at age 9, saw him spend eight months in hospital with spinal injuries that left him paralysed.
He went on to represent Lincoln at county level and Great Britain at an international level and now hopes to compete at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.
A regular clubber, Mr Sargent feels "let down" by his experience at Tokyo Lincoln.
He said: "Clubs in Lincoln usually always go out of their way to help me, but at Tokyo Lincoln I wasn't offered any assistance.
"I had heard the club was so good too as it had been so hyped. I feel very let down."
But Tokyo Lincoln, which is housed in the former Constitutional Club in Lincoln's Silver Street, says it has a duty to abide by building regulations governing the red-brick Victorian building.
When the first stones of the grade two listed building, which was built in 1895 and first used as a ballroom and debate room, were laid it was considered a public building – a definition which remains today.
Therefore, although equality law requires service providers to make "reasonable adjustments" to accommodate disabled people, there are exemptions in situations where organisers cannot make such adjustments, whether that be because of cost, resources or size.
Tokyo Industries, which owns Tokyo Lincoln and has 20 high-end night clubs and venues across the country, says it worked with a private building control contractor to convert the Constitutional Club and is bound by building regulations not to make substantial changes to the building.
A Tokyo Lincoln spokesman said proposed future planned developments would allow disabled guests direct access to the basement and ground floor of the club, but that first level access is difficult due to large spiral staircases which still exist from the original 1890s design.
The spokesman said the club's policy does allow access for guests who need assistance and that door staff dealing with Mr Sargent appeared to have "misinformed" him on this occasion.
She offered an "unreserved" apology to Mr Sargent and said the club would be contacting him directly to apologise.