Catherine Cuddy, owner of Sisyphus Brewing, was running errands around her brewery and taproom on a Sunday afternoon with her 3-year-old collie-shepherd mix named Albert.
Then, a Minneapolis health inspector walked in — and Cuddy had to kick Albert out.
Many taprooms around Minneapolis allow dog owners to bring their four-legged friends along while grabbing a drink. According to state health codes, however, the practice is risky and illegal.
But the rules may change, at least in Minneapolis. The City Council last week directed staff to work with the state Department of Health to find a safe way for dogs to visit taprooms by June.
"Personally, I think that it's great for folks to be able to [bring their dogs], if a business is OK with it and if people are properly handling their dogs," said Council Member Andrew Johnson, who's working with Council Member Lisa Goodman on the effort.
Bringing dogs into places like breweries is a health code violation because water used in the brewing process is considered food, Goodman said.
Goodman, who successfully persuaded legislators to allow dogs at sidewalk cafes in 2008, said she didn't know taprooms were dog-free places until a constituent came to her with complaints that dogs weren't allowed. She said keeping dogs out is "an unnecessary barrier to business."
"I would like to see our health inspectors focused on spoiled food and hand washing, not on nailing taprooms that don't even serve food for allowing dogs," Goodman said.
After Cuddy got caught keeping Albert at Sisyphus, her brewery underwent — and passed — a reinspection. But she thinks her business suffers under a no-dog policy. She said regular customers who brought their dogs to the taproom complained when told dogs weren't allowed.
Dog owners feel Minneapolis is a dog-friendly city, and bringing a furry friend for drinks makes socializing more enjoyable, said Sara Nick, the content manager for Sidewalk Dog, a website that lists dog-friendly businesses and events in the Twin Cities area. Breweries make up a large part of the dog-friendly local scene, she said.
The city health department will work with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to determine if bringing dogs to taprooms is a health risk and, if so, how to mitigate it, Johnson said. Adding requirements like keeping brewing and cooking spaces separate from seating areas could resolve health concerns, he said.
If the departments determine taprooms are a safe place for canine visitors, establishments will decide for themselves whether to allow dogs inside, Goodman said.
Jessie Bekker is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.