Blackpool bar leaves group ‘disgusted’ after turning away man with condition over dress code

Dave Hodgkinson, 56, claims he was turned away from Soul Suite initially when staff thought he was intoxicated – however the manager later cited that his clothing was against their dress code

Soul Suite bar on Queens Street, Blackpool

Soul Suite bar on Queens Street, Blackpool (Image: Google Street Image)

A man who was recently diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease was turned away from a Blackpool bar after door staff reportedly thought he was drunk.

Management at Soul Suite, on the Promenade, have insisted that it was due to his attire, despite claims that the door staff commented on him appearing intoxicated. They did not outright deny they had turned him away for ‘being drunk’ and cited their policy.

On Friday (May 28) Dave Hodgkinson, 56, was out with a group of friends, all from Nantwich, Cheshire, when they decided to go to a bar they had been visiting for years on their trips to Blackpool.

They approached the Soul Suite bar on the Promenade in the early evening, at the start of their trip, but according to the group they stopped by the door staff.

Dave, a former landscape gardener, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in February of this year.

The condition affects his lower legs such as the movement of his toes and his left ankle so Dave wears foot-up leg strings to underneath his trousers to help him walk.

56-year-old Dave Hodgkinson demonstrating his foot-up leg strings outside Soul Suite bar in Blackpool that help him walk after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease

56-year-old Dave Hodgkinson demonstrating his foot-up leg strings outside Soul Suite bar in Blackpool that help him walk after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease

He was a few steps behind when his friends say they were told that Dave had “had enough”.

Dave lifted up the legs of his jeans to show the supports he was wearing on his legs and explained his condition.

The group waited outside as the security staff contacted the manager, who allegedly came outside and stated it was to do with what Dave was wearing.

Soul Suite has since stated that Dave’s clothing did not fit the dress code and this is the reason why he was not allowed entry.

Dave’s friend, Stephen, who dealt directly with the manager said: “We were disgusted. We have been coming Soul Suite for 10 times almost 20 years. We came there to enjoy ourselves as my friend has recently been diagnosed Motor Neurone Disease, when we were turned away.

“We’ve been in there so many times with jeans, trainers and shorts on and I actually took a picture of people in the bar dressed like that on that evening.

“The outside area wasn’t full and we couldn’t understand why the manager’s attitude was so flippant. We understand that mistakes can be made however after Dave’s condition was explained there was a chance to apologise but that wasn’t taken and instead we were told it was because of the way were dressed.

“I wanted to cry but I was also fuming. It’s the first time Dave has ever felt treated differently after his diagnosis.

“I didn’t want to have to but I tagged them in a social media post with an explanation of what happened on the night we went out and there hasn’t been any response since.

As the group of friends were leaving Soul Suite another set of patrons reportedly approached Stephen to say they had witnessed what had happened and that they felt compelled to leave.

Dave had been training to become a priest for two years prior to his diagnosis.

He explained that he wants to express his beliefs through his clothing was wearing a top that referred to a quote about God’s Love at the time.

Dave, who now grows and sells potted plants, said: “They could see we weren’t trouble makers and I only had two pints in me.

“We’d been to Soul Suite only about three weeks before. I lifted my jeans up to show the straps, to which the manager then said it was because of the dress code after 7pm, although we were there earlier.

“It’s just upsetting really that a business we have supported for so many years would treat us this way.

“We went on to the Townsman on Topping Street and they were so welcoming – to the point where one of my leg strings snapped and Terry who works there drove home to get glue so it could be repaired!

“Part of why we all went out was for us to all enjoy spending time together. There’s a possibility with Motor Neurone Disease that it could stay in my legs and not go any further however after the first 12 months it could progress so I want to get out while I’m out and about.

“I’m not giving up hope and I will carry on enjoying what I can and stay positive.

“I’m not in the habit of trying to destroy businesses and I’m not telling people to boycott Soul Suite as after the horrendous 12 months the hospitality sector has had no one deserves that.

“I practice forgiveness with my beliefs and I understand that mistakes can be made and we learn from them.

“Often people can wear a badge to show hidden disabilities and this issue needs to be raised so people can understand better that things like this can happen, so all I want is for them to hold their hands up, acknowledge this was an error and them maybe buy me a pint and that’s it.

“Overall we had a lovely time in Blackpool, staff at the little Black Pug bar were amazing, as were so many others and we will continue to come back to the town.”

A spokesperson for Soul Suite said: “Like most venues serving alcoholic drinks in Blackpool we have different dress codes when we switch from family to adult when evening audience admissions commence.

“As per our policy we do not comment on individual customers.

“The Soul Suite since opening in 2005 has prided itself on doing everything we can to welcome and encourage disabled and wheel chair users.

“We have an accessible low gradient entrance ramp and an accessible wide entrance toileting facility on our ground floor.”