No charges against GR bar that kicked out vet, service dog

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The general manager of a Grand Rapids bar who turned away a veteran with a service dog will not face charges in the incident.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker released his decision in the case Thursday, which stemmed from Jerome Smith’s Nov. 10 visit to the Holiday Bar on 5th Street NW.

Becker says Smith dressed up his service dog in a tuxedo to celebrate the Marine Corps’ birthday at the bar with friends, but was turned away at the door.

The bar’s general manager told the prosecutor he was concerned for the safety of the dog and patrons at the crowded and “potentially raucous” bar. The general manager said he contacted police when Smith said he had a right to be there, to try to verify if he could deny entry to the veteran and his service dog.

In his decision, Becker said the remote-controlled electric shock collar Smith had put on Jo-Jo did not qualify as a “harness, leash or other tether” that state law requires for service animals entering a business.

Becker said police also contacted the group that provided Smith with his service dog, and they explained that all handlers are trained to leash and place a service vest on their dog when they are working.

However, Becker stated the general manager “was clearly wrong in denying entry to Jo-Jo based on a concern for the safety of the dog and patrons,” because the service dog was not out of control and was housebroken, as required by law for entry.

The bar apologized shortly after the incident and donated a day’s worth of sales to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

The Holiday Bar has since received training for how to handle service animals, according to Becker.

“Perhaps this incident will serve as a lesson to other public establishments that they need to be aware of the law and what is required,” Becker stated.