A restaurant owner has apologized after rejecting a combat veteran and his service dog from his Pennsylvania establishment last week.
Pete Wagner, owner of The Huddle, a popular bar and restaurant in Pittsburgh, told WTAE he regrets his decision to block veteran Kris Jones and his service dog, a Dutch Shepherd named Chopper, from entering his eatery Thursday evening.
"I made a mistake, that's all there is to it," Wagner told the station, adding that his decision was made amid chaos due to a Steelers game. "We have service dogs here often."
Although Jones, a Marine who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), admitted Chopper was not wearing his service vest at the time the incident took place, he said the dog did have on a special collar identifying him as a service animal.
He also claimed that Wagner did not give him a chance to show Chopper's documentation before asking him to leave the premise.
"It was just very disappointing to me. It is just very hurtful," Jones, who described Chopper as his "lifeline," told WTAE. "A lot of veterans, you don't want to be alone when you're going into a public place or a restaurant — it can be pretty stressful."
The veteran, who was injured in April 2003 when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his Jeep in Iraq, says he hopes that by speaking out about the painful experience, he can raise awareness about PTSD and those who suffer from it.
"I want business owners, people, children everywhere to know that PTSD is a big thing," Jones said. "People can look okay and look fine, but you don’t know what’s going on on the inside."
Multiple people angered by Jones's experience have since taken to restaurant rating site Yelp to leave The Huddle negative reviews, branding the eatery as "un-American."
"The owner kicked a veteran and his service dog out without giving the vet a chance to show documentation for his service dog," one customer wrote. "Would rather go hungry than eat here."
"What a disgusting thing for the owner to not serve a vet and his service dog," wrote another. "Do not go here!"
The restaurant has since invited Jones back for dinner on the house, but the veteran told KDKA he does not wish to return.