It’s woof-icial! Dog-friendly dining has been approved 4-0 by the City of Palm Beach Gardens, making it the first Palm Beach County municipality to legally introduce dogs into café society.
The council met in August to address incorporating the ordinance but delayed making the decision final until after a second hearing held September 16th. At the August meeting several members of the public stepped forward with ideas and concerns about the pet-friendly procedure, but no one from the public spoke out at the most recent assembly.
“All we’re doing is making sure that any establishment that wants to have a section outside the restaurant for dogs to accompany their owners while their owners are eating dinner can do that,” said Council Member Eric Jablin.
No Free Lunch
Any dog-friendly restaurants wishing to accommodate customers with their dogs must apply for a $175 permit from the city and comply with new regulations designed to protect public health, including having to:
-designate outdoor seating area open to dog dining
-immediately clean and sanitize areas affected by dog waste
-provide signage advising patrons and employees of applicable rules
-clean and sanitize all table and chair surfaces between seating of patrons
-provide hand sanitizers at all dog dining designated tables.
“It’s a privilege that they get from the city to do that,” Jablin said, referring to businesses that allow dog-accompanied customers. “They have to come under certain city regulations and they’re pretty stringent and they all have to do with health codes.”
Currently, the State of Florida prohibits dogs to accompany their owners to restaurants. However an exemption to the law was created for municipalities that are willing to establish and enforce a dog-friendly ordinance, thereby permitting a sitting with man’s best friend.
“If someone doesn’t apply for a permit and does not want to have a dog sitting by their owner’s table outside then dogs are not allowed outside,” said Jablin during the council meeting.
Neighboring Cities Not Yet Leashed
While many Florida cities have taken the opportunity to regulate dog-friendly restaurants, other Palm Beach County locales known for a dog-welcoming environment like West Palm Beach and Delray Beach have yet to officially legalize dog-friendly dining.
“I haven’t heard any talk of a movement to bring an ordinance to West Palm Beach, but if it came up we’d discuss it and have a lot of input from the community businesses and restaurants, that would be our main objective,” said Public Information Spokesman Peter Robbins.
“Our city events are very dog friendly. We have the green market starting soon at the waterfront commons downtown. I bring my dog there,” Robbins said.
City of Delray Beach Assistant City Attorney Terril Pyburn said that Delray Beach, best known for its café-lined Atlantic Avenue littered with dog-proud patrons, also has not instituted a dog-dining ordinance.
“We’ve left it up to restaurants to decide. I think probably because it would make owners of restaurants liable and not the city,” Pyburn said. “Enforcing it would be a problem as well. I’ll look up what Palm Beach Gardens has done and pass it on to the Community Improvement Department, which oversees cafes, and see if it’s something they want to take a look at.”
Restaurateurs Chasing Tails for Fine Paw Print
Though the dog-dining decree seems to be a boon for pet lovers, not all Palm Beach Gardens restaurant owners are rolling over for the new law. Only one out of six restaurant managers contacted for this article were eager to speak on the subject and few seemed to be aware the ordinance had passed and that it’s immediately in force.
“That’s insane,” said Jean Harrison, proprietor of Nature’s Way Café on Alternative A1A. “Am I getting a permit? Absolutely not. This is just another fee for the business person to have to pay to supplement the city. When the dog police come, who do they ticket – the dog?”
According to an unofficial listing of municipalities in the state of Florida that have enacted dog-dining ordinances posted on floridapets.net, Palm Beach Gardens’ permit fee is among the highest but is topped by Jacksonville, where a dog-friendly restaurant must dig up $250 for a permit.
David Reyes, code enforcement operations director for the City of Palm Beach Gardens said the permit cost is a one-time fee based on cost recovery for departments, field inspections and set up fees, with no revenues for the city intended.
“It’s a way for us to help our local business owners and restaurants comply with the law,” Reyes said. “Right now if we get a complaint the only thing we can do is forward it to the State, and that’s not the agency you want to have to get involved with your local businesses.”
Reyes said an educational campaign was forthcoming from the city designed to inform businesses of the steps involved in obtaining a dog-dining permit and procedures that must be followed. In the meantime, he said, restaurants would not be cited for disobedience.
“People can come into our building department and we’ll give them a copy of the ordinance and requirements and will provide them time to comply and will not issue a fine right away,” Reyes said.
Palm Beach Gardens, A Signature city, Agendas and Minutes, City Council, 09/16/10 Audio
City of Palm Beach Gardens, David Reyes, code enforcement operations director
City of West Palm Beach, Public Information Spokesman Peter Robbins
City of Delray Beach, Assistant City Attorney Terril Pyburn