OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The owner of a Douglas County bar cited for turning away a woman with a service dog pleaded not guilty on Thursday, a day after missing his first court date.
Surfside Club owner Mike Walker faces a misdemeanor charge of denying a disabled person entry to his business, a beach-themed bar along the Missouri River.
His lawyer, Robert Williams, got Judge Marcena Hendrix to rescind a bench warrant after Walker missed court Wednesday. He told 3 News Now he’d gotten the date wrong. His ticket said July 21.
Walker faces up to three months in jail and up to a $500 fine for allegedly telling Sarpy County resident Valerie Powell she had to leave Surfside with her service dog on May 23.
Powell shared video with us from that day. It showed Walker telling her to leave with the dog. Walker, in a previous interview, called the video selective in what it shows.
He and his lawyer declined to comment on camera after Thursday hearing. In a written statement, his lawyer said it appears Powell had a legitimate service dog for a medical reason.
He said Walker was trying to protect his business and his insurance after others have tried to pass off pets as service animals. He said the law makes it hard for business owners to be sure.
“At this point, there is additional evidence to obtain and flesh out before we decide how to proceed in court,” Williams said.
Powell has said she wants Walker to understand what he did was wrong. Her service dog, Bear, is trained to redirect her attention and help her with her balance and reactions to stress.
The law protects people with service dogs, allowing them entry to places where animals are otherwise kept out. It also restricts what businesses can ask dog owners.
She said on Thursday that she tried to work with him, but now wants him prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Walker, in a conversation before his court appearance, told his lawyer that he still believes he did what two Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies told him he could do.
Chief Deputy Douglas County Sheriff Wayne Hudson has told 3 News Now Investigators that Walker made his own decision and must’ve misunderstood them.
His next court appearance is Aug. 31.