Illinois Restaurant Turns Away Veteran and Service Dog on Memorial Day Weekend

Washington, DC

Most Americans set aside Memorial Day weekend as a special time to honor those who have served our nation. However, an Illinois restaurant is under fire for the way they mistreated a veteran Sunday.

Army veteran Garrett Loughran, 32, honorably served as a specialist and tank mechanic for three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan over the course of nine years. Like many other veterans, he came back from the overseas war with post-traumatic stress disorder. Hershey, a five-year-old labradoodle, is a specially-trained service dog that helps Loughran.

“He’s constantly on his guard, constantly looking around, especially when a lot of people are around him. He is always looking for a threat. The dog calms him,” Loughran’s mother, Laura Wills, explained. She also said Hershey wakes Loughran up when he has nightmares, and comforts him.

“He’s very important to me,” Loughran said about Hershey.

Wills wanted to take Loughran out to a special pre-Memorial Day lunch on Sunday, and they decided to go out to Houlihan’s in Algonquin, Illinois.

When they got there, according to a post Wills left on the Algonquin Houlihan’s Facebook page, a hostess saw Hershey and told the group the restaurant does not allow dogs.

“My son replied that his dog was a service dog, at which time the hostess went and got the manager. The manager also refused to let the dog in,” Wills wrote.

According to federal law, businesses are required to permit people with service animals to go wherever members of the public are allowed.

“[Hershey] had his red cape on that said he was a ‘service dog.’ We had the papers with us but [the manager] just said, ‘Well, we don’t allow dogs in the restaurant,’” Wills later told the media.

Loughran, his parents, and Hershey ended up going to lunch at a nearby restaurant called Village Vintner, which allowed Hershey in, no questions asked.

Hershey “was just there to comfort me and calm me down afterwards. I was pretty upset,” Loughran said.

After posting on Houlihan’s Facebook page, Wills received an outpouring of community support. At the time of writing, the post had over 5,000 likes and shares and nearly 2,000 comments supporting the family. Many more left their own posts on Houlihan’s page, criticizing the actions of the manager on Sunday.

For their part, the restaurant seemed eager to correct their mistake. The manager who refused to serve Loughran was fired, and Houlihan’s sent the family a letter apologizing for the incident.

“There is no apology sufficient in this circumstance. This is inexcusable. [Houlihan’s] will ensure this is addressed and that no other person has to endure what you and your son did,” the letter said.

The business also made a $2,000 donation to the Pets for Vets organization, on the recommendation of Loughran and his family.