Jonathan Costa knew that he didn’t want to see Frank’s Antennas get slapped with an Americans with Disabilities non-compliance lawsuit.
As the store manager he twice had run-ins with Carmichael activist Scott Johnson – who visited the first time to point out the ways that the 24-year-old federal law was not being adhered to and followed up with an additional visit to see if any headway had been made towards the repairs.
Something needed to be done. But in the convoluted world that measures everything from door pressure to the width of the parking stall, Costa – who has overseen the operation of the business for the last two years – didn’t know where to turn.
But his saving grace did find him. Brad Peters, an outspoken member of the disabled community that’s incensed that Johnson has descended on Manteca and is concerned that the concept that he is spreading among the small businesses will make the day-to-day concessions that the handicapped require just to get by that much harder to obtain, worked hand-in-hand with Costa to make sure that everything that could labeled as non-compliant was brought up to code.
Door tensions were lowered. Counters were lowered. Federally-recognized signage declaring that there was no public access to a bathroom on-site was installed. What was once a nomadic and wandering trip through the vast expanses of bureaucracy became a step-by-step checklist of what needed to be done – ran through by somebody that deals with access issues on a daily basis.
“You’re talking about a guy that’s going out of his way – on days when it’s really hot outside – to make sure that our local mom-and-pop businesses aren’t getting hit with lawsuits that would end them,” Costa said. “Having that sort of a community with other small-businesses and people like Brad that are willing to bring them together is important on matters like this.
“It’s these mom-and-pop businesses that make communities like Manteca what it is – yeah we have a Wal-Mart and K-Mart and a Target but we also have businesses like this that have been here for 36 years. They’re what make Manteca homey. And the fact that one guy is going around and trying to eliminate that to put money in his pocket? That’s when you need guys like Brad that are willing to step up and make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Earlier this week a handful of Manteca business owners met with ADA experts at a workshop at Manteca City Hall to learn what sort of options were at their disposal. One in particular said that she had tried to do the things that Costa was doing but ended up getting sued anyway – adding to the mounting frustration that independent businesses are being unfairly targeted for financial gain.
Peters, a member of the Happy Wheelers, came onboard when he heard that the Manteca Chamber of Commerce was going to be circulating a petition that would be submitted to local elected officials as a show of solidarity that the community, as a whole, wasn’t willing to let the abuses continue unabated.
Dozens of Manteca businesses have now either received formal lawsuits filed in United States District Court or demand letters that some experts have decried amount to state-sponsored extortion.
To date no Manteca business has formally closed specifically for ADA-related reason, but last month The Barnwood Restaurant and Catering Co. – which was recently sold – shut its doors after being served as a part of the wave.