Beware The One Legged Man

I have a very close friend who owns a bunch of bars and restaurants in Chicago.  Great guy, honest businessman, truly deserves good things to happen to him.  Unfortunately he is often the victim of scam artists and b.s. laws. 

For example, did you know that the City of Chicago can fine a bar for not paying them any sales tax for drinks that are given away for free?  That's right, if your friendly neighborhood bartender wants to buy you a beer or a shot "on the house", the bar is still supposed to pay the City for their lost revenue.  There are a ton of crazy laws like that which lead to ridiculous fines.

There are also many people who state that they have been discriminated against based on a handicap.  My friend never gets these complaints until a public agency like the Illinois Department of Human Rights sends an investigation letter.

The most recent complaint was from an allegedly one legged man who said that he denied the opportunity to sit at a table because he wasn't going to be eating.  Of course if he even was in the restaurant, he never told anyone that he had a disability and if he had they gladly would have accommodated him.

But that's not how these scams work.  My friend gets a demand letter for a few thousand dollars which is finally whittled down to $1,000.  He has paid off these people before because it's cheaper than spending all day in a hearing or paying for a lawyer (which is why he usually doesn't fight the City fines).  This time though he said enough was enough because he knew this wasn't true.  So he told the  case investigator he was offering $0.

A hearing was scheduled and my friend showed up with a buddy who is an attorney and took the case on for free.  Once the investigator realized this she told him, "Now I know why you didn't pay, you don't have to pay a lawyer."  The one legged man didn't show and the case was dismissed.

Sounds like the good guy won this time, but in the bigger picture, scam artists know that they can allege discrimination over and over and that they'll usually win.  Even the investigator expected my friend to just buy the guy off. 

I'd like to say that this was a one time occurrence, but sadly I hear a similar story about 10 times a year.  It's almost as if paying these people off is an additional tax if you want to own a restaurant in town.


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