Cafe closes after third ADA lawsuit

Jason's Cafe at 1246 El Camino Real in Menlo Park. Post photo.

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

Jason’s Cafe in Menlo Park closed yesterday (April 30) after 11 years in business after the cafe was hit with three Americans with Disabilities lawsuits.

Owner Jason Kwan said the lawsuits focused on different parts of the restaurant that were not accessible, and after the third suit was filed in federal court last month, he decided to close.

“We can’t handle it,” Kwan said. “I’m really upset about it. I’ve been there for 11 years, and we have good customers. We love our customers.”

Kwan added that with each lawsuit, he must pay for the renovations, for his attorney and attorney’s fees of the plaintiffs.

Frequent litigants

Two of the lawsuits against Kwan and the cafe were filed by serial ADA litigants — Scott Johnson, who sued six El Camino Real hotels and restaurants in Palo Alto and Mountain View in April 2018, and Gerardo Hernandez, who sued the Dutch Goose, the Fish Market in San Mateo, Canada College and the Canyon Inn in Redwood City, among many others. The third suit against Kwan’s could not be located yesterday.

This note was taped to the door of Jason’s Cafe at 1246 El Camino Real in Menlo Park. Post photo.

Johnson’s suit, filed on Aug. 30, claimed that the cafe’s parking lot was not up to snuff, that there were disabled signs in the lot, but the painted lines for the parking stall and the accompanying access aisle had faded and were difficult to see, if not completely gone.

Johnson’s suit also alleged that the front door to the building at 1246 El Camino Real was too heavy.

Another lawsuit was filed around the same time, before Kwan could even arrange for changes to be made to the restaurant and the parking lot.

Hernandez’s lawsuit claims that the bathroom door at the restaurant is too narrow for a wheelchair to get through. Hernandez also says the bathroom, had he gotten in, would have been too small for him to move around in his wheelchair.

Targeting older buildings

Kwan said part of the problem with the Jason’s Cafe building is that it is 40 or 50 years old, built far before the ADA. Kwan also said it seems like the serial ADA litigants file suits against older restaurants or those in older buildings because they may not be up to code.

“They keep going to the old restaurants and suing. It’s easy money,” Kwan said.

Kwan also owns J&J Hawaiian BBQ at 1170 Alma St., Chef Kwan’s (formerly Su Hong) at 630 Menlo Ave., and Yum Cha Palace at 1039 El Camino, next door to Chef Kwan’s.
Chef Kwan’s was the subject of an ADA lawsuit filed in December 2017 by another litigant, Ronny-Marie Wilson. Chef Kwan’s has now been renovated, and Kwan said his new restaurant, Yum Cha, ought to be up to code.

16 Comments

  1. This is horrible. The owner and his staff were like extended family. I am sorry to hear this happened but some people try to gouge everyone.

    • We have been regular customers of your restaurant, Jason’s Cafe as well as Chef Kwan’s for many years and we’re deeply saddened by the news of your closing Jason’s. There isn’t another restaurant that has such a diverse menu and we loved your staff. My husband loved the California omelet with country potatoes. And while his memory began to slip away due to Alzheimers he always seemed to remember Jason’s and his California Omelet. I’m so sorry I won’t be able to bring him there anymore.
      I agree, I did see the need for improvements to accommodate those with disabilities. My husband, Gerry, has a lot of pain walks with a cain and has difficulty walking but we managed to open that heavy door and get to our table.
      In all fairness I am sympathetic to those who are
      unable to navigate about freely and hope that one day you can make the necessary improvements and reopen your beloved cafe so that all patrons can enjoy your delicious food and friendly staff. I’m sorry the disgruntled customers had to take their grievances against you to such a drastic level.
      Sincerely,
      Beverly

  2. It shouldn’t be this easy to sue a business and destroy it. If these lawyers see a violation they should have to notify the owner and give him time to correct it. And nobody should be allowed to file more than one ADA suit every five years.

    • Agree! Some of these suits are clearly money grabs. I doubt the Sunnyvale woman comes often to Menlo except to find targets for her meanness & greed. There are lots of very good Chinese restaurants in Sunnyvale, so why use gas & travel to another town unless it’s how she makes money?

  3. Another example of lawyers living ‘up’ to their reputation. This was a real community location not to mention the number of jobs these ‘lawyers’ have just destroyed. I see that Scott Johnson is setting a great example of how to treat other human beings as he is now defending 4 claims of sexual harassment against him. Such a classy individual. NOT!

  4. How do you balance the needs of the disabled to participate in society against the onus of small businesses to
    accomodate them?

    Society passed laws that said the community as a whole needs to accomodate the handicapped. It laid out the requirements
    in detail. It did not give exceptions to old buildings, small businesses.

    Are you all saying that anyone handicapped can only go to a new large place of business and cannot participate in the
    benefits of
    going to Jason’s Cafe?

    I am not in favor of the handicapped making a living by suing businesses. But I am also not in favor of exempting businesses
    and
    segregating the handicapped to only some businesses.

    /marc

  5. Sad that a great place to eat closes over some one who goes around looking to sue
    How can he get away with this he ruin? Such a friendly place. Will miss his greeting of
    Y “Hello Friend” each time we eat there.

  6. Oh,so sad. We were planning on going there tonight. I agree that if someone has grievance, they should address their concern with the owners before resorting to a suit. Ugh!

    • These serial ADA suers have no interesting in giving the owners an opportunity to fix the problem — no money in it. They just want to go straight to suing. The judges need to look at the track record of the litigant. Yes, things should be ADA compliant, but the owners of businesses must be given the time and possibly even financial assistance to get into compliance and a lawsuit should be the last resort.

  7. The actual handicapped person gets 1/10th of the payment by defendant. The Attys get the other 90%, uses ‘google maps’ fly over to troll good sites, hands site addresses to handicapped, and uses signature stamps to fast file replicates across large case load, protesting whenever opposition/eg Diner Owner changes anything from their form responses bc have no bandwidth for variations. The AttyFees returns are massive ($20M per year range) and handicapped ends up suing their Atty who breaches contract even only sharing 10%. There are RICO filed on some Attys in SF. The magistrate/judges rubber stamp the Attys who present as heroes for handicapped while ripping off handicapped; who need to join the RICO suits bc that’s where the real discrimination is happening. The Judges are a significant part of the problem.

  8. Given the development going on next door, I wonder if somebody asked these ADA lawyers to sue this place in order to remove Jason so that land could be grabbed. Morally, I think the ADA lawyers and developers are at about the same level in life.

  9. The ADA became law in 1990. The regs have been well known to commercial property owners for almost 3 decades — & consist primarily of very simple parking, egress, & bathroom access standards. Even though the requirements have been known to restaurant operators for a LONG time, this group especially avoids implementing them.

    Mr. Kwan knew the ADA requirements very well, even prior to his acquisition of Jason’s because he has multiple restaurants in this area — yet he did NOTHING to comply with the law when he acquired the Cafe. He also did little to improve the restaurant’s appearance….which was filthy for the entire 11 years the restaurant was open. The letter writer “Suspicious” posits that the ADA lawyers might be trying to grab Jason’s property. Here’s an alternate theory: Maybe Jason didn’t make ANY improvements to the property, or even clean it, because HE was waiting for a real estate windfall.

    The ADA is, and will be, essential to quality of life for more and more people and will be especially important to baby boomers who are lucky enough to get older. Disability comes with age — but also consider that inaccessible restaurants also block the families who want to take their disabled kid out for a burger.

    I suddenly became disabled in my late 50s. I needed a wheelchair for several years, but luckily eventually graduated to a cane. I soon discovered physical barriers I had never noticed: Restaurants with inaccessible upstairs/downstairs bathrooms, stores with perpetually broken elevators, doors I couldn’t open, handicapped parking on extreme slopes, etc.

    Believe me, your world quickly changes when you become disabled.

    Perhaps some of the hostility towards disabled people comes from the fact that there are a lot of scammers. Believe me, truly disabled people are pissed at the scammers. Don’t get me started on the fraudulent use of Handicapped Stickers or people claiming that their 10lb. poodles are “emotional assistance dogs” as they sniff/lick the food in markets.

    Maybe the hostility is just a sign of the mean times we live in. But it has to stop. This is America — we’re supposed to care about one another.

  10. It’s not hostility to handicapped: it’s hostility to the Atty ripping taking advantage of handicapped and destroying local small business. The Atty for G. Hernandez is TE Moore in SJ. She’s making millions of dollars a year up and down the Peninsula. Maybe organize picketing at her office?

  11. Agree! Some of these suits are clearly money grabs. I doubt the Sunnyvale woman comes often to Menlo except to find targets for her meanness & greed. There are lots of very good Chinese restaurants in Sunnyvale, so why use gas & travel to another town unless it’s how she makes money?

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