Chipotle to ADA: Happy Freaking Birthday!


another option for the burrito-bound wheelchair-bound

Monday was the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Monday was also a huge bummer for the Chipotle burrito chain:

The 45-inch-high wall between the customer line and the food preparation counter at two Chipotle restaurants in San Diego County, which blocked the view of patrons in wheelchairs, violated the 1990 federal law that requires equal treatment of the disabled, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Monday.

The court said the accommodation the company offered—bringing spoonfuls of each dish to wheelchair users for inspection before ordering—didn't measure up.

That would provide only "a substitute experience that lacks the customer's personal participation in the selection and preparation of the food," the court said in a 3-0 ruling.

Reason already celebrated the anniversary with Contributing Editor Walter Olson earlier this week (where I see several commenters noted the Chipotle decision), and the analysed the law in its early days with a cover story by Brian Doherty in 1995.

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  1. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is apparently mentally handicapped themselves.

  2. This is almost as ridiculous as that decision against the strip club for their “shower dance” stall being too small to accommodate wheelchair-bound strippers.

    Our nation is ruled by madmen.

  3. [16] The violations of the Disabilities Act we have found
    are that, because of the wall, Antoninetti was unable to see the
    food arranged on the food counter or the preparation of his
    order, as non-wheelchair-bound customers could do, and thus
    was unable to enjoy the “Chipotle experience.” Those viola-
    tions necessarily occurred only when he visited the restaurants
    to purchase food and sat in line in his wheelchair. On those
    visits when he was not seeking to purchase food or to have the
    “Chipotle experience,” Antoninetti cannot recover money
    damages under the California Act.

    When’s that next world-destroying asteroid due? I want to see it.

  4. Chipotle’s other offered solution – an overhead crane that lowered hooks on a chain to lift the wheelchair up and afford the disabled patron a better view of the food preparation area – also was rejected as “just plain silly.”

    1. Were in charge of Chipotle and dealing with these clowns I probably would have suggested something like that and feigned seriousness, just to see what the ADA’s reaction would be.

  5. Maybe he asked for no beans and they put beans in it anyhow. If he could have seen what they were doing, he could have stopped them.

    1. OK I just laughed out loud at that

  6. What about me, Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals? I’m fucking blind! Chipotle can’t be put out of business fast enough!

  7. What’s the deal with Chipotle’s anyway?

    Never been, but some folks I know are fanatic about it. Is it that good?

    And do I REALLY need to see someone put together a burrito?

    1. My wife and older daughter – and I – love Chipotle. There’s one about a mile from our house. It’s some good stuff. Massive burritos. I always get the chicken fajita burrito and pay extra for the guac. Oh yeah.

      1. Why would you keep eating at some place that makes you crap blood in your underpants?

        1. He must have bought some Cipotl-away.

    2. It’s pretty good. But no, you don’t really need to see someone put the burrito together.

      1. Tell that to my kid. I have to carry him through the line each time we go so that he can see what they are doing. Little kids are addicted to watching the food get made.

    3. It’s all right. Qdoba is the superior gigantic burrito outlet, in my opinion.

      1. I only Qdoba local to me, but I prefer Chipotle from my limited experience with them.

        Both are far superior to Moe’s (which I do have locally).

        1. Welcome to Moe’s!

          1. Moe’s – Home of the worlds smallest big screen TV.

            Moe’s – Home of the worlds stinkiest bar rag.

            Oh, sorry….I’m quoting Moe from the Simpsons.

    4. FreeBirds beats the ever living shit out of Chipotle. They have more choices, better salsa and ingredients, and a more relaxed casual atmosphere.

      Their Pot Brownies (the kind made in a pot, but I’m sure, if it were legal, they’d have the other kind) are also delicious.

    5. I like it, but it’s much the same as any other build-your-own-burrito outlet.

      Actually the selection of ingredients is relatively limited. Would be cool if they had carnitas.

      1. Every chipotle I’ve been to has carnitas.

        Or, something they call carnitas.

  8. As far as seeing them put it together, that’s part of “the experience”!

    But yeah, it’s good, because then you can watch them to make sure they’re putting in it only what you want and that they didn’t miss anything you wanted them to put in.

    1. I’m usually only on the lookout for them putting saliva, urine, and oven cleaner in.

      1. The ones out this way only have drano–you can’t get oven cleaner. Damn.

        1. The Chipotle experience is not defined by what goes on behind the counter. It’s defined by what goes on in the bathroom a few hours later.

  9. When NYC buses were replaced by buses outfitted with lifts for wheelchairs, someone figured that it would have been cheaper to equip every wheelchair-user in the city with a chauffeured Mercedes 24/7. (I don’t know whether that’s true, but I like the story anyway.)

  10. So if this goes through, then will Subway also be affected?

    1. What Argosy said.

      And throw in Blimpe, Quizno’s and just about every mom and pop sandwich shop around.

      Wuhoo!!!!! I’m going to get me a business methods patent and get fucking rich off this one. I’ll patent suing the shit out of every place that has a set up where you can see what the hell it is they’re putting on your sandwich / ice cream / etc. Thank you ADA!

  11. Blame the legislature.


  12. Blame the legislature.


    1. You might as well blame them twice.

    2. I blame Bush

  13. But, if they lower the food prep area to a reasonable height to accomodate people in wheelchairs, then the work surface will be too low, and will create an OSHA violation as an unsafe work environment. How can Chipotle win?

    Oh, and at Cold Stone Creamery they sing if you tip. Is this discriminating against the hearing impaired, who won’t get the whole “Cold Stone Creamery Experience” because of their disability?

    1. Clearly the food prep area should be excavated 5ft below whatever it is now to prevent back issues.

      That said, it would be kinda awkward for people that can walk (feet next to the food and the like).

  14. How about installing a mirror on the ceiling at an angle, then the wheel chair bound can look up and see what is going on if they so choose?

    1. Sure, then everyone can see my bald spot.

  15. Just put all the food in piles on the floor. Then everybody can see it.

    1. I’m imagining you saying this in a very deadpan manner and I’m cracking up.

  16. I didn’t think the counter height would be an issue now that all the wheelchair jockeys are rockin’ dub and a deuce wheels on their rigs.

    They’re not doing that in your hood?

  17. What’s next? Making golf courses fully wheel chair accessible with lifts in the traps? Skate parks with code required 2% grade ramps? Target rich environment for this guy.

  18. The ADA doesn’t mandate equal treatment. It mandates special (i.e. uneqal) treatment.

  19. Could a guy in a wheelchair even see high enough to see into the containers? Are they supposed to lower the counter so that the employees have to stoop to make the burritos?

    1. Yes, just as they have with public pay phones, ATM’s etc. Then the injury lawyers get their cut when everyones back goes out and sues the building owner.

    2. Think in 3 dimensions – they just have to sink the employee floor!

      1. But how do the handicap employees get to the sunken floor? A mandated handicap ramp at a minimum or maybe an elavator if you really run into a zealous plan checker at the city.

        I kid I kid. Too bad the planning department doesn’t!

        1. Mandatory wheelchairs for all – problem solved!

        2. because standing is insensitive.

    3. “Are they supposed to lower the counter so that the employees have to stoop to make the burritos?”

      apparently, and then get sued by OSHA for a too low work space

  20. trucking company I used to work for back in texas had a ‘construction site’ type office trailer set up with showers,bathrooms,lockers and lounge area for us drivers. when an OSHA inspector informed company that it wasnt ADA compliant[showers/ restrooms/kitchen area or access into trailer]after company did math on updates, they found it easier to haul it off than to modify it for ……….oh idk…wheel chair bound oil rig moving truckdrivers???

    yes it a dumb azz law that needs to be repealed!!!!!

  21. The plaintiff is famous asshole who makes his living by suing companies for trivial violations of the ADA. In a just universe the court would have ordered the bailiff to wheel his crippled ass out back and kick the shit out of him.

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