COLUMBUS -- Legislation ensuring restaurants, breweries and coffee shops can allow pooches on their patios is now awaiting state lawmakers in both chambers when they return to action.
"Why should a health department get to be onerous and just say, 'No, no, nowhere in my jurisdiction, in my fiefdom, shall there be a dog?'" said Sen. Bill Coley, doing his best boisterous king impersonation.
"Businesses know how to operate. They don't need bureaucrats around the state exercising their authority."
Standing on the patio at Land-Grant Brewing Company in Columbus, the West Chester Republican said he has introduced a bill banning state or local officials from adopting or enforcing rules that prohibit dogs from outdoor patios.
Rep. Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, introduced a nearly identical bill in June, after the Columbus public health administrator issued a letter to restaurants in May reminding them that, except for service dogs, live animals are not permitted on the premises of a food-service or food retail operation. Allowing dogs on patios violates health codes, though some cities impose stricter enforcement than others.
Julie Keys, general counsel and marketing coordinator for Land-Grant Brewing, said dogs were always welcome on the patio, and the establishment hosted dog-related fund-raisers, including a pups and pints event in April that raised $3,500 for the Capital Area Humane Society.
"We were hoping to repeat that popular event on a regular basis, but that came to a screeching halt when the health department clarified the law earlier this summer," she said.
"Our leadership here at Land-Grant can be trusted to make the decision to allow dogs on our patio. We look forward to returning our dog bowls and dog treats to this patio."
Garrett Guillozet, food safety supervisor for Franklin County Public Health, said dogs have long been banned from restaurant patios in Ohio, which models the federal Food and Drug Administration. The reasons: concerns about contamination from dog hair and dander, and, even more, worries about dog bites.
Some people are hesitant to eat around other people's dogs, Guillozet said, because one cannot fully guarantee how a dog is going to react when around other animals or people.
County health officials would support allowing dogs on patios if some conditions are addressed, Guillozet said. Those include signage informing customers that dogs are permitted, allowing dogs to enter only from the outside, not by walking through a restaurant, no dogs on chairs, and restaurants required to keep a dog waste kit on site.
Lanese reportedly is working on some additions to her bill.
"We want a balanced approach to protecting the health and safety of the public," Guillozet said.
The Ohio Restaurant Association is supporting the bills, which would not allow dogs inside establishments. Spokeswoman Natalie Watson said restaurant owners should decide if they want dogs on their patios, particularly as they try to retain customers at a time when more people are staying home, ordering food via delivery.
Coley said he owns two sheep dogs and travels with them regularly, noting they joined him for breakfast the previous morning at a Hilton Hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A dog does not determine whether a restaurant is sanitary, he said.
Jim Siegel is a reporter for The Columbus Dispatch.