Dining With Dogs
Marc Grock, Kevin Cotrell and their rescue dog Freddy
Make no bones about it, San Diego is one of the pooch-friendliest places in the country.
And those lucky dogs are getting a treat in 2015 with a new state law in effect as of Jan. 1 that officially allows Fido on restaurant patios throughout California.
Not that San Diego canines have been stuck at home waiting for a doggie bag — they’ve been joining their best friends in outdoor seating areas around the region for years. And because the new law doesn’t require eateries to accommodate dogs, don’t expect a wave of doggy cafes to be unleashed.
“It just validates a long-standing practice here,” said Wendy Patrick, an attorney and business ethics lecturer at San Diego State University.
“It’s a recognition of the fact that dogs are part of our family. If businesses want customers, they have to consider that. But for all the naysayers, don’t worry, it doesn’t permit a candlelit dinner for three inside.”
Freddy Grock has dined in some of the finest restaurants in the world.
In fact, the law, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last summer, sets conditions for how and where dogs can be and still makes allowances for local ordinances that ban the practice.
Among the law’s conditions are that pet owners must keeps their dogs on a leash or in a carrier and can’t let them sit on chairs or tables. Restaurants will be required to have separate outdoor entrances to the patio so the critters won’t be marched through indoor dining rooms.
Sponsors of the original bill, AB 1965, argued that while outdated state laws made it illegal to do so, many restaurants already chose to allow dogs on their patios. A number of county health departments around California had also approved rules allowing individual restaurants to decide whether or not to allow dogs on patios.
David Cohn, president of the Cohn Restaurant Group, said many of the chain’s eateries with patios already provide water bowls for dogs and he doesn’t expect the new law to have much impact.
“We think it’s wonderful,” he said. “We do find that in our neighborhood restaurants, we get a lot of people who want to sit on the patio with their dogs and we’re fine with that — we encourage it.”
Cohn said dog-lovers are usually more passionate about their pets than people are passionate about not having pets in restaurants, “so we err on the side of people with their pets and 99.9 percent of them use good judgment.”
He and other restaurant owners interviewed said it’s rare that a customer howls about sitting near a dog but when it does happen, one of the tables is moved.
Johan Engman, owner of the Fig Tree Cafe, with locations in Pacific Beach, Hillcrest and Liberty Station, said he tries to seat people with dogs on the perimeter of the patio.
“Not to put people in the corner, but if a dog is in the middle of the patio, waiters can fall over them. In one instance, a waiter accidentally stepped on a dog’s tail and that wasn’t good,” he said.
Engman said he has had to draw the line a few times when customers wanted to seat their teacup pups next to, well, teacups, on the table. And when he opens his new Breakfast Republic in North Park in March, he’ll have allocated patio space for pets, but that’s as far as he’ll go.
“North Park and San Diego in general are extremely dog friendly,” he said.
“I don’t really plan on going to the extent of having a doggy door, to tell you the truth.”