(WXYZ) — Local business owners in metro Detroit are speaking out claiming they're being unfairly targeted with frivolous lawsuits demanding thousands of dollars.
Several business owners in Ferndale and Berkley say they've never received any complaints about lack of handicapped accessible ramps or parking, but now they are in the middle of a fierce legal battle.
They are some of the most popular and recognizable family-owned businesses around metro Detroit – the Blarney Stone Pub on Woodward in Berkley and Silver Tower liquor store also on Woodward in Berkley and Hilton Road cafe in Ferndale. Court records show they and more than 20 other spots in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties have faced civil lawsuits alleging lack of handicapped accessible park and ramps.
Owner of Silver Tower liquor store, Lou Jarrah, says his building dates back to the early 1900s and since he took over more than 35 years ago, he's followed rules enforced by the city. He says on the contrary, he claims a settlement offer to drop a lawsuit fired against him is merely a cash grab.
In Ferndale, Hilton Road owner Effie Lambros also finds the claims unfair. Living with a physical limitation of her own, she says all her customers use street parking because this aging building never came with a lot. She says she simply doesn't have the means to put in more spaces or a ramp and doesn't appreciate being pressured to pay up.
Attorney Paul Clark points out while the Americans with Disabilities Act requires taking appropriate steps to be equally accessible, there are exemptions for older businesses that have never been able to remodel something city leaders in Ferndale and Berkley also back up.
7 Action News reached out to Attorney Sean O'Mara, representing the plaintiff in all these cases, for comment Tuesday. He emailed back only saying he would talk to 7 Action News on Wednesday.
The owner of this liquor store is doubling down and says the city of Berkley also notified him that he doesn't have to make any changes, unless he remodels or enhances the property in some way.