Rover may soon join you at the table - but no begging

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 27, 2008 - 7:27 AM

Kim Dyste, with pup Giogio, shared brunch one beautiful weekend morning at Moose and Sadie’s in Minneapolis. Though many restaurants with outdoor dining have allowed dogs to join their owners, a move by the Legislature should soon clear up the legality of the practice.

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

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If a law traveling through the Legislature passes as expected, restaurants and bars with outdoor service may be adding a new item to their menus by May: Kibble.

The bill would clarify a now murky, and seldom-enforced, Minnesota Department of Health rule that prohibits pets from any establishment that serves food, either indoors or out. The rule only makes exceptions for assistance dogs.

The bill, which has passed through a House committee and has been heard in the Senate, would allow municipalities the right to permit restaurants to decide whether, and under what circumstances, they would allow dogs in their outdoor areas.

The author of the bill, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said that constituents brought up the issue. "A lot of people moved downtown, and it can be a kind of a tough place to raise dogs," he said. "Plus there was a lot of confusion of what the rule was."

If the bill does pass, people in Minneapolis will be sharing cocktail hour with their mutts by May, if council member Lisa Goodman has anything to say about it.

Goodman, whose Goldendoodle Sadie is a fixture around her ward bordering downtown and Loring Park, is a big supporter of the bill. She helped push for a new dog park near Loring last year.

"Three years ago I had this 10-pound puppy and like a lot of people I had two choices: Go home and stay with my dog, or take him with me," she said.

Goodman found that some outdoor restaurants welcomed her pup, but others were unsure whether it was legal. And the rule wasn't being enforced, she said.

Buddy Ferguson, spokesman for the Health Department, said the rule was probably made considering only indoor restaurants. The department has not taken a position on the new bill.

"This will simply clear the issue up," Goodman said. "The city won't go to the dogs if this is passed. We don't want to restrict and assume the worst, we want to allow and assume the best.

"We often told bars and restaurants what they can't do, like smoking. This is the opposite. It's an economic issue."

Ann Grant, general manager of Bar Lurcat, agrees. Lurcat is down the block from the new dog park, and scores of people walk by every night with their dogs. She'd like to see them stop in.

"I love dogs," Grant said, "and whatever brings in business, I think it's good."

Like most other restaurant managers contacted, Grant was unaware there was a rule prohibiting dogs on patios. Customers occasionally sit at Lurcat's outdoor tables with dogs.

"In our experience, we've never had a problem," said Grant. "No one has ever complained."

Joe's Garage, just down the block, has also been known to be quietly dog-friendly. Owner Joe Kaplan hopes the bill will pass, but he's a little nervous it might encourage people to bring too many dogs into restaurants.

"If you get too many dogs, you might see fights or have problems," Kaplan said. "I'm definitely going to [allow dogs], but I'll have to decide if I'll set a limit on the number I'll allow in. I also might put up signs" setting behavior rules for dogs.

"I already have a two-burger minimum for dogs," he joked. "I know one guy who buys a burger for his dog and he eats the whole thing, except the pickle."

Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, is lukewarm to the idea. "I think it's kind of foolish," he said. "I've had kids and dogs and cats, and I love dogs, but I guess it would bother me a little bit sitting at a nice restaurant with dogs around.

"I can't imagine you're having a steak and the guy next to you has two pit bulls."

Joe Gentile, executive chef and manager of The View, near Lake Calhoun, said he already welcomes well-behaved dogs and will continue to do so.

"It's like an unruly child, you wouldn't want a dog that was misbehaving either," he said. "But I'll make sure to have treats for them.

"I actually have one legislator -- I'm not naming names -- who brings his dog by a lot and orders him a hamburger," Gentile said. "Medium rare."

Jon Tevlin • 612-673-1702

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