The city of Minneapolis is considering giving your dog legal passage into taprooms and coffee shops come summer.
For folks who are used to bringing dogs along to Fair State and Sisyphus, or playing with them at Wild Mind Artisan Ales and Inbound, it may come as a shock that those pooches have been illicit stowaways all along. State law doesn't allow them in places that prepare food.
But in places that prepare just a tiny amount of food -- like taprooms and coffee shops -- it’s hard to see dogs posing a serious health risk. After all, there are some people that shed more than the average dog, and dogs that behave better than the average child. That’s why tons of businesses in Minneapolis are happy to host them, and why customers typically don’t complain.
Which puts the health inspectors in a tough spot.
“There are taprooms where the owners are fine with it, the customers are fine with it, it’s been going on for some time, nobody’s concerned, there are no problems. But when a health inspector comes in and they see it, they say, ‘Oh wait, that’s against food rules, so we need to insist that you no longer do this,’” says City Councilman Andrew Johnson.
Angry Catfish Bicycle and Coffee Bar in Standish is one place that used to put out water bowls. Customers liked that they didn’t have to leave their dogs tied up to a parking meter if they wanted to stop inside for a cup of coffee. Then an inspector had to break the news that they were technically breaking the law.
In Loring Park, Lakes and Legends and Sisyphus Brewing have always allowed dogs, and would love to do it legally, according to Councilwoman Lisa Goodman.
In 2008, Goodman fought for a change in state law to give cities the right to choose for themselves whether dogs should be allowed in sidewalk cafes.
"I had no idea that dogs weren’t allowed in taprooms because taprooms don’t serve food, but it turns out that the state Agriculture Department defines water as food, and as a result of water being made into beer in taprooms, they define beer as food," she says. "And so the health department is required to enforce the law in places where food is served, and in some ridiculous way they describe water and beer as food."
City council members on Monday asked the Health Department to create some new regulations that would relax this outright ban. Dan Huff, the city’s director of environmental health, says that Minneapolis could get a variance on state law if it establishes certain rules, such as making sure the dogs are under control and leashed clear of the kitchen, and making sure staff have a cleanup plan for accidents.
“Our job is always, number one, to protect public health. But number two is supporting our businesses and our community,” Huff says. “We wanna be as flexible as we can while still making sure we protect public health.”