You’ve heard of BYOB. What about BYOD?
Outdoor dining and drinking season is in full force, and more than 60 restaurants have declared their outdoor seating areas dog-friendly with the City of Chicago.
The city previously required a separate license for a restaurant to declare its outdoor seating area dog-friendly, but that now is folded into the retail food license. “Restaurants may establish a dog-friendly area in their outdoor space by simply providing a statement in their business activity description that they wish to establish such an area,” said Jennifer Lipford, director of communications for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.“
Besides making sure your dog has a current rabies vaccination tag, there are additional rules (and plain old good manners) that dog owners should keep in mind before toting their pup to a patio.
>>Where to go: 60+ dog-friendly patios in Chicago
PATIOS MUST HAVE STREET ACCESS
With the exception of service dogs, city ordinance states that dogs should never be brought inside a restaurant. “To ensure indoor spaces are healthy and clean, dogs are not allowed to be in or travel through indoor parts of a restaurant,” said Gerrin Butler, director of food protection programs for the Chicago Department of Public Health.
A restaurant’s dog-friendly outdoor area must be accessible directly from the street, meaning sidewalk seating or a separate patio with a street entrance is fair game, but outdoor spaces that require customers to walk through the restaurant to get there aren’t eligible.
Michael Cannon, general manager of Seven Ten Lanes in Hyde Park, said having his dog-friendly patio in direct view from the sidewalk encourages passersby to stop and admire dogs accompanying their owners and helps bring in new customers.
FOOD IS FOR PEOPLE ONLY
Though asking your server to bring an extra burger patty for your dog or feeding your pet scraps from your plate seems innocent enough, both are no-nos. City ordinance states that while on the patio of a restaurant, a dog cannot be provided food by employees or customers.
“Don’t come to the restaurant and expect us to feed your dog, because we are legally obligated not to do so,” said Jim Moorehouse, general manager of Rockwell’s Neighborhood Grill in Lincoln Square.
Last year, Martial Noguier, chef/owner of Gold Coast restaurant Bistronomic, created a menu for canine customers featuring chicken, vegetables and rice dishes that complemented the restaurant's modern-style French cuisine—before realizing that implementing it would be a violation.
In Paris, where he is originally from, it is not uncommon to see a restaurant providing food for both customers and their dogs, he said. “We have a lot of repeat customers who bring dogs,” Noguier said. “If I could provide the dogs with food, I feel like I would be giving more of a service to customers.”
CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR DOG
Taverns--which the city defines as a bar that sells alcoholic beverages as its primary source of business--that do not serve food are welcome to allow dogs either indoors or outdoors.
The SoFo Tap in Uptown is one such tavern that’s declared dogs welcome. “We are dog-friendly all the time, unless it’s very crowded, in which case we may ask people to come back with their dogs another time,” said co-owner Mike Sullivan. The SoFo Tap also hosts Doggy Days, an event specifically for dogs and their owners from noon-3 p.m. on Saturdays.
Sullivan and his staff have one overarching rule. “Please be responsible for your dog,” he said. “We ask that you stay in the same room as your dog--if you are on the patio, so should your dog--and if your dog has an accident, please clean it up, including on the patio.” The SoFo Tap has a bucket of water with disinfectant, a mop and poop bags on hand for owners to use if needed.
DON’T FORGET YOUR LEASH
Although some restaurants don’t require dogs to be leashed at all times while on the patio, “definitely always make sure to bring a leash and keep your dog as close to your table as possible,” said Mike Matozzo, operations manager of Rockit Burger Bar, which features a dog-friendly outdoor area along Waveland Avenue.
At Rockwell’s, Moorehouse leaves the leash decision up to his customers. “Some dogs are very well-trained without a leash, so we leave it up to the owner’s discretion if they want to unleash them,” he said.
The same goes at Bang Bang Pie Shop in Logan Square, which features a dog-friendly backyard patio that’s accessible from the street, though co-owner Dave Miller said that customers need to mind their dogs whether they’re on-leash or off.
“Don’t bring your dog if you’re not going to pay attention to it,” said Miller. “This should be a good experience for owners and dogs to enjoy together, because there are not a lot of [dog-friendly] places in the city where they can do this.”
AVOID A TOO-HOT DOG
Spending a sunny afternoon lounging on a patio in a skimpy sundress might be fine for you, but be sure to consider the comfort of your fur-covered friend. “Remember, if it’s hot outside for you, it’s hot outside for them,” said Butler.
“We try to keep the patio as shaded as possible and our waiters are good about giving dogs water and keeping them hydrated,” said Moorehouse. Because not all restaurants provide water bowls—and those that do could run out on a busy day—bringing your own is a smart move.
Some restaurants go a step further to keep your pooch cool. Alfredo Sandoval, CEO and managing partner for Mercadito Hospitality, which includes Tavernita and its dog-friendly patio in River North, said that on hot days, his servers offer floor mats to dogs on the patio as a barrier between them and the scorching sidewalk. Tucking a towel into your bag for your dog to sit on serves the same purpose, he said.
NOT ALL DOGS ARE PATIO-FRIENDLY
“We do not discriminate based on spayed/neutered, age in doggie years, breed or fur color,” said Keegan Moon, operating partner for Dineamic Group, which runs Bull & Bear, a River North sports bar with dog-friendly sidewalk seating.
That said, the size and behavior of some dogs can sometimes be an issue. Miller suggested that owners of larger dogs scope out the patio beforehand to make sure there’s enough space between tables for their pup to comfortably sit or lay. On some smaller patios, Sandoval said, larger dogs could get in the way of servers or customers at neighboring tables.
“Just like humans, sometimes dogs have bad days or do not get along with a particular dog,” said Sullivan. “If it’s that kind of day, consider coming back another time.”
If your dog barks incessantly, doesn’t listen to your commands, can’t sit still or wanders to the point that he or she disturbs other customers, he or she might not be the best patio companion. “Take me, for example," said Moorehouse. "I have a dog that I know is very excitable, and I know not to bring it to a restaurant." Matozzo advises owners to take their dog for a walk before their meal so they’re tired out a bit and ready to chill out on the patio.
Sandoval said servers at Tavernita will first warn the owner that their dog needs to behave, and only as a last resort will the customer be asked to leave the patio. “Once some else [in the restaurant] is uncomfortable or complaining, then we have to act on it,” he said.
CALL AHEAD IF YOU CAN
Though most restaurants don’t take reservations for outdoor seating, Nick Ostapczuk, general manager at Bangers & Lace in Wicker Park, encourages dog owners to call ahead about seating availability to avoid waiting around for an open table with an impatient dog. “It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” he said.
Upon request or just as part of regular service, many restaurants will offer to call or text you when your table is ready, leaving you free to take your dog for a walk while you wait.
Along with saving dog owners from playing the waiting game, Sandoval said a call ahead could also save them from a wasted visit if the patio is closed due to bad weather conditions. “Our whole staff stays informed on the weather hour-by-hour,” he said. “If we know that it is very likely that it is going to rain and someone calls to tell us that they are going to bring their dog, we can explain to them that in the case of rain, unfortunately, the patio will be closed and we cannot allow your dog inside.”
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