Trans discrimination at Elliston Place IHOP leads to swift action, retraining

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The full staff of the International House of Pancakes restaurant at Elliston Place off of West End Avenue will be retrained in customer service expectations as a result of an incident involving a visiting group of transgender people on Monday.

Students attending a training session for Southern LGBTQ advocacy say they were originally refused service by a restaurant server because one of their group brought their service dog with them, as originally reported by the Dallas Morning News and The Tennessean.

The group was left waiting for over 30 minutes when they requested another server, as employees stared at them and other customers were being served, according to the sources.The group left the restaurant soon after without being served.

Mr. Emmett Schelling, a transman attending the Nashville-based training as Executive Director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, posted to his personal Facebook account a brief retelling of the incident, along with a request for readers to call the customer service complaint number displayed on the restaurant door.

Schelling believes the server used the presence of a colleague's service dog as a reason to deny service to an openly LGBTQ group, according to the News report.

The social media publicity generated by the incident prompted local transgender activist Dr. Marisa Richmond to make a personal trip to the restaurant the following day to investigate. She posted to her Facebook account that she had talked with the restaurant manager about the incident.

“Excuse me, ALLEGED incident,” quoting the manager in her account. Richmond was told that the restaurant was in possession of the video recording of the incident and referred all her questions to the corporate spokesperson, refusing to comment further.

Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition President Emma Frye issued a statement condemning the poor treatment of LGBTQ patrons, noting that the likelihood of incidents such as this one have increased as a result of Tennessee political leaders continually submitting anti-LGBTQ legislation for discussion.

“Leadership conferences such as this one…benefit the area where they take place,” Frye said in the statement. “ incidents such as this lower The Prestige of Nashville, and Tennessee…by  promoting the idea that this is an unwelcoming Place. Many events (and potential businesses) take these types of incidence into account when investigating potential venues. Unfortunately, this is affecting Nashville's reputation.”

The ownership group of the Elliston Place based IHOP franchise were reportedly attempting to personally apologize to the LGBTQ patrons involved, according to IHOP spokesperson Stephanie Peterson.

“They were made aware of the incident shortly after it happened, and they immediately began an investigation,” Peterson told Out & About Nashville by phone. They believe that the primary reason for the poor treatment was related to the issue of the dog with a member of the group, but that was no excuse for extremely poor customer service.

“(IHOP) has looked into the service issues and as a result the entire team will be retrained Thursday on sensitive issues such as this,” Peterson said. “Neither IHOP nor its operators tolerate discrimination in any way. It is not part of our brand, nor our beliefs.”

CORRECTION: an earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Mr. Emmett Schelling's last name. We apologize for the error.