A partially sighted woman was reduced to tears after she was refused entry into part of a popular Cirencester restaurant because she was with her guide dog.

Catherine Brown, from Glastonbury, Somerset, had booked a weekend break for her husband’s birthday in The Fleece Hotel last December and on the first evening was refused access to dinner in the dining room.

As Catherine is partially sighted, she has a guide dog to support and assist her day to day.

She says before the visit, she telephoned in advance to say she had a guide dog and was told that it was okay.

Catherine says hotel staff also saw her guide dog named Ruby when she checked in earlier that day and nothing was said.

“I was physically barred from entering the dining room,” Catherine said.

“A very tall man stood in front of me and said I wasn’t allowed in as somebody in there may have been allergic to dogs.”

Instead, Catherine was told she could be seated in the area leading into the restaurant, which Catherine described as dimly lit with candles.

“I said that due to the poor light levels I would be unable to see my food clearly,” Catherine continued.

“I was told that I could eat in the bar area, but it was heaving with people.

“There was also low lighting in there, so I couldn’t see what was on my plate.

“I ended up in tears, it was a very upsetting experience.

“Staff also told my husband that they would reserve a table for us for breakfast the following morning, outside the dining room.

“In the end we ate elsewhere for the rest of our stay, we only used the hotel as a place to sleep.”

“I asked to speak to the manager and had to wait quite a while to do so.

“When I eventually spoke to him I told him what had happened and asked if he was aware of the Disability Act 2010.

“He said he had not thought about it. I told him I would be taking it forward as staff need to receive awareness training to avoid situations like this happening again.”

Phil Mehrtens, general manager at The Fleece says that dogs are not allowed in that area of the restaurant, because there are some people with allergies.

He said: “We were really disappointed that the lady in question was not happy with her stay with us, particularly as we didn’t find that out until after she checked out.

“The Fleece is a beautiful place to stay and eat with many different areas to enjoy food and drink.

"There is one particular section which we don’t allow dogs in because there are some people with allergies and others who really don’t like dogs.

"But this has never been an issue previously because there are so many different spaces within our inn and it’s exactly the same menu and service standards on offer.

“However, after the lady who is partially sighted wrote to us with her experiences, we took on board her comments, amended some of our operations so that this doesn’t happen again and invited her back so she could have a much more positive stay.”

Kirstie Bower, director of skills, information and support at Guide Dogs, added: “Often establishments, businesses and services don’t fully understand their obligations in law, but ignorance is not an excuse.

"This discrimination has a devastating impact on people’s lives, their confidence, and their sense of belonging to society.

“We’re worried that the number of refusals reported to us may just be the tip of the iceberg, as one in four assistance dog owners tell us they find reporting an access refusal too difficult or time consuming.

"Working with RNIB, we want to empower people with sight loss to take action against this illegal discrimination.”