Family Protests After Delano Refuses Pool Entry to ALS Advocate in Wheelchair

Ed Cofiño isn't sure his cousin José will ever make it back to South Beach. That's because he has advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the degenerative neurological disease made famous by Lou Gehrig. So when José visited last Sunday before boarding a cruise, Ed was excited to take him for a drink at the Delano Hotel, an art deco gem both cousins love.

The Delano, though, put a quick end to that dream. Ed says multiple employees at the famed hotel refused to let them into the pool area for a drink, citing a rule that the area opens to the public only after 6 p.m. 

"I thought it was pretty shitty of them," Ed Cofiño says. "I told the manager: 'Look, I've got my cousin here with ALS, he's in wheelchair, and we don't know if he'll be around in six months or a year. What's the harm in bending the rules for him?'"

A Delano spokesperson tells New Times he regrets that José couldn't get into the pool, but he stands by the hotel's policy.

"In order to protect the Delano guest experience, the pool area is open only to hotel guests until 6 p.m.," Chad Fabrikant says. "Given the special circumstances with advance notice, we’d look forward to welcoming him to Delano and offer him drinks on the house.”

Ed and José, who is 56 years old, grew up together in Maryland. Ed later moved to South Florida, where he worked in high-end hotels for years before moving into financial planning. The Delano became a favorite stop when the relatives would hang out, he says. 

"We love the Delano. We had probably been there 100 times, and I had never heard this rule about only hotel guests being allowed to get a drink by the pool during the day," Cofiño says.

José was diagnosed with ALS three years ago and has since become a national advocate for those dealing with the incurable condition. He started the group Beyond ALS and has become a motivational speaker discussing his condition.

He returned to Miami last weekend for the first time since he began using a wheelchair, Ed says. On Sunday, they walked from José's hotel about eight blocks to the Delano, where they were stopped before they could get to the pool.  

Cofiño says he understands the policy but blames managers for refusing to consider the circumstances. 

"I was a front-office manager for years. I understand they have rules, but they can also make judgment calls. I thought this was bad judgment," says Cofiño, who adds that his anger was compounded when no one at the hotel responded to his emails or tweets.

"I'm not looking for any sort of compensation or anything like that," he says. "I would just like to hear back from the GM or someone in high capacity that they'll treat this situation differently in the future."

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