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Dog-friendly dining now an option

County Public Health Department enacted new guidlines that allow canine patrons at some restaurants

Posted: July 27, 2012 6:23 p.m.
Updated: July 27, 2012 6:23 p.m.

It was a lovely summer evening in the Santa Clarita Valley, much too nice to leave her four-legged best friend at home while she enjoyed a meal alfresco. That’s why Laura Chesler recently brought along her dachshund Ella to the Valencia Lazy Dog Café to dine with friends.

As Chesler dove into appetizers and conversation on the outdoor patio, Ella made some new pooch pals of her own, including Kara, a pit bull owned by Kyle Harris, of Canyon Country.

“This gives Ella a taste of something different. She has a good life, but she likes going out. It’s a thrill for Ella, and I like to see her happy,” Chesler said.

While doggy dining has long been a common practice in Europe, it was only this February that the Los Angeles County Public Health Department allowed for restaurants with outdoor patios to offer such an option to their patrons.

“After carefully reviewing possible risk factors that may be associated with allowing pet dogs in outdoor dining areas, we determined policy revisions were possible,” Jonathan E. Fielding, the county’s top health officer, said in a press release.

Guidelines for the county policy include that:

  • A separate entrance is used where pets do not enter through the food establishment to reach the outdoor dining area;
  • No food preparation takes place in the outdoor dining area, including the dispensing of drinks and ice;
  • Plates, silverware, glasses and bowls are not stored, displayed or pre-set at the outdoor dining area;
  • Food and water shall be provided only in single-use disposable containers;
  • Employees are prohibited from having direct contact with pets while on duty;
  • Pets are not allowed on chairs, seats, benches or tables;
  • The outdoor dining area is kept sanitized;
  • The outdoor dining area is not fully enclosed.

“We urge all dog owners to follow these guidelines in order to provide the best possible dining experience for both people and dogs,” Fielding said.

According to Rebecca Simms, director of marketing for the Lazy Dog Café, a chain of popular restaurants in Southern California, allowing dogs just makes sense for their business.

“The pet-friendly policy on our patios conveys the playfulness and casual nature of our culture and provides a special amenity for our guests who have four-legged friends,” she said. “We are in the business of serving the people in each community that we do business in, and our pet policy is just an extension of that.”

However, there is etiquette to follow when bringing your dog along for a meal, as Sims illustrated. “Avoid the three B’s: barking, begging and biting. Also, remember that your server is not allowed to touch your dog while working. It’s nothing personal.”

A pooch menu of grilled steak, chicken and tofu are on offer at Lazy Dog Café, which waitress Sarah McLeod is happy to serve up along with a fresh bowl of water in a Styrofoam container.

“I love having pets on the patio. I think it makes for a really good atmosphere,” she said.

George Thomas, owner of Route 66 Classic Grill, agrees. He created a Yappy Hour on his restaurant’s patio every Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. for dogs and their human counterparts.

“We had customers that would come in before, years ago, with little teeny dogs and sit them under the table while they had lunch. We actually had a warning from the health department that we weren’t allowed to have dogs on the patio, so we had to individually tell customers that they couldn’t bring them anymore,” Thomas said. “When the news came out that it was legal, we decided to celebrate and let our customers know dogs are welcome back on the patio.”

During Yappy Hour, Route 66 offers $1 off well drinks and draft beers and 50 percent off appetizers. Servers hand out treats, toys and bowls of water for the dogs.

Whether it’s a tiny Chihuahua or a big golden retriever, owners should know their dog’s limits before bringing them out, Thomas noted.

“Just make sure your dog is friendly and social. Most dogs are and we haven’t had an issue yet,” he said. “If the dog’s not social, it could be hazardous.”


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