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Sentence: Be kind to the blind

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — A restaurant owner found guilty of refusing service to a blind man because of his guide dog has some homework to do.

Judge Alonzo Coleman ordered the manager of Zorbas Restaurant to read a book about blind people and their guide dogs and write a report about what she learned. Iris Andros must write a maximum of 10 pages before April 2.

"What she says about this book will determine the judgment that I have," Coleman said Monday in Orange County District Court.

Disappointed by the outcome, Andros admitted to making a simple error. "I do understand that maybe I made a mistake," Andros said after the trial. "Maybe I should've asked him if he was blind. . . . I was not aware of the law. I'm not going to do it over again."

Andros' attorney, Glenn Veit, called this a "painful, embarrassing lesson" for his client.

She has received hate mail and harassing phone calls at home and at work, Veit said. Some customers have visited Zorbas with dogs to taunt her, and others have stopped dining at the restaurant.

"It's not that the business dropped off," Andros said of the restaurant she and her husband own. "The business almost died."

Dave Oberhart, 38, testified that on the evening of Oct. 7, he, his wife and two relatives tried to enter Zorbas Restaurant. Andros told Oberhart his guide dog, a black Labrador named Cooper, had to stay outside because he posed a threat to other customers.

At the time, Andros testified Monday, she didn't know Oberhart was blind.

Oberhart said he tried to show Andros Cooper's tags, which the dog acquired when he and Oberhart graduated from Leader Dog School for the Blind in Michigan in July 1998.

"She didn't care to get close enough to even look at it," he said.

Dist. by Scripps Howard News Service