A Brighton pub threw out a young disabled woman when she went into a crouching position after being startled by a sudden blast of loud music.
A man who said that he was the licensee of the Mash Tun, on the corner of Church Street and New Road, asked 19-year-old Charlie Skelton to leave.
Charlie’s mother, Jenny Skelton, explained to the barman that her daughter suffers from a chromosome abnormality and had been startled. But another member of staff just repeated that she would have to leave the pub.
She has since shared what happened with friends on Facebook as well as contacting the pub’s owner and operator, the Laine Pub Company.
Her post appears below. It quickly went viral and some of the many people who left supportive comments also left less positive comments on the Mash Tun’s page.
Last night the Mash Tun’s general manager, Aaron “Azzy” Williams, posted an apology on the pub’s Facebook page, saying: “I work really hard to make the Mash Tun a fun, friendly and inclusive pub so I’m devastated that we have fallen short of our usual standards through the actions of a member of my staff.
“I am trying to contact Jenny and Charlie to express how sorry I am and to see if there is anything at all I can do to make amends.
“I’ve investigated what went wrong and am reviewing my disability awareness training to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The incident happened on Sunday evening (7 August) and yesterday (Monday 8 August) Jenny wrote: “Last night, my nineteen-and-a-half-year-old, adopted, disabled daughter, Charlie, was thrown out of a pub – the Mash Tun in Brighton – for being disabled.
“Charlie has two chromosome abnormalities and is a bit of an enigma. On the one hand, she is very innocent, child-like and can’t read or write but, on the other hand, she has a great vocabulary and wants to be a teenager, just like other young people her age.
“She will never be able to do things on her own because she is vulnerable and unaware of consequences.
“Anyone who has met Charlie will know that she is one of the sweetest people you could ever wish to meet.
“She fits in anywhere and, when she is with me and my friends, she chats away (usually about Justin Bieber!) or quietly plays on her iPad.
“I have always been able to take her anywhere and she enjoys a full life – going to theatre, concerts, cinema and other social events.
“Such is Charlie’s good behaviour that several of my friends have taken her out and, indeed, a friend of mine is taking her to the cinema on Wednesday. This particular friend has taken Charlie to several events without any problem, as have other friends.
“I adopted Charlie at the age of three with her two siblings and she has never willingly caused me a moment of trouble.
“Last night, a good friend offered to take Charlie and me out for a meal. After the meal, at 9.30pm, we were walking back to the disabled space where I had parked the car when we heard some music coming from the Mash Tun.
“As it was a beautiful evening and it looked like a nice atmosphere, we decided to end the night by sitting outside the pub with a drink.
“I always carry Charlie’s passport with me because she doesn’t look nearly 20 and I showed it to the doorman. We then ordered our drinks at the bar. There was only one other customer in the pub as everyone else was sitting outside on the benches.
“As we were being served, I suddenly noticed that Charlie was crouching quietly (ie, not making a sound) on the floor with her hands over her ears.
“I was surprised as it is not something I have seen her do before and she said it was because a sudden burst of loud music had startled her.
“As I was telling her to stand up, the barman (who said he was the licensee) said she would have to leave.
“I was shocked and explained that she was disabled, that the music had temporarily scared her but that she was okay now.
“He insisted that she would have to leave because he couldn’t have someone doing that in a pub. He said it was Pride weekend and he had had to throw out at least three people an hour.
“I said that Charlie had not even had a drink and that her behaviour was because she was disabled. He insisted that she was not welcome. During this conversation, my friend took Charlie to stand just outside the open patio doors.
“I told the licensee about the Equality Act and that it was not right to discriminate against her because of her disability.
“I explained about her chromosome abnormalities and asked if he would discriminate against someone in a wheelchair. He said of course he wouldn’t. I said there is no difference between discriminating against a physical or a mental disability.
“I said that she had only been crouched down for a couple of seconds and that no one had even seen, that she had not been in anyone’s way (as I said, the pub was empty, no one had complained or even seen and she is tiny – she weighs under five stone and is only 4 feet 8 inches tall) and that she wouldn’t do it again. In any case, we were going to sit outside with our drinks.
“At no time did the conversation become heated or argumentative but I was trying to explain very calmly that he was not allowed to discriminate because she is disabled.
“The other barman said to me, ‘Right, you have had your say now so you can leave.’
“I said that I was trying to continue to explain because I thought he would see sense. They still asked us to leave so I had no option but to do as they asked.
“Of course I feel angry but, more than that, I feel extremely saddened – saddened that what had been a lovely evening was turned around so quickly but more saddened that Charlie had not been allowed to do what other people can do because she is disabled.
“She was not hurting anyone and never would. She is a delightful girl whose chief aim in life is to please people.
“She was so distraught by what happened that she is still crying about it the following morning. She keeps saying that everyone hates her, that everything is her fault, that she wants to die and that she wishes she wasn’t disabled.
“It is heartbreaking and totally unjust.
“The Equality Act exists so that people are not treated unfairly because of their disability. Not only was Charlie treated unfairly, the licensee also broke the law because I had told him about her disabilities and he had no good reason to ask her to leave.
“If she had been doing anything to cause any nuisance to anyone (not that she ever would) then, of course, I would have willingly taken her away.
“It was Pride weekend in Brighton – a glorious celebration of the total acceptance of and non-discrimination of a group of people of whom Charlie and I have many friends.
“We always watch the Pride parade and Charlie loves it. It is ironic that it was during this wonderful weekend that Charlie was discriminated against: proof that, although one group of people are now completely deservedly accepted in Brighton, another group – the disabled – aren’t.
“How sad and how very un-Brighton.”
Jenny also posted two updates last night. The first said: “I am overwhelmed and so grateful for everyone’s comments about this situation.
“Charlie and I had hardly any sleep last night. She was traumatised and didn’t understand what she had done wrong.
“A few people have asked if they can share this post. I would be extremely thankful if you could share it because I absolutely do not want this to happen to anyone else.”
The second update said: “What can I say but ‘wow’. I am completely staggered at the response regarding this incident, particularly from those who know Charlie and who have been so kind about her.
“It is clearly an emotive issue and I would like to try to use this collective incensed response to address the way in which mental and invisible disabilities are treated across the board so that they can elicit the same acknowledgment and non-discrimination as visible disabilities attract (supposedly and hopefully).
“I have just checked my Junk folder and there were apology emails in there from both Enterprise Inns and Laine Pub Company (joint owners/operators of the Mash Tun).
“They both say that they will investigate the incident. I will keep you all updated. Once again, my sincere and grateful thanks go to everyone who has supported me and Charlie.”