Bethany Clough

Eating Out: New law could mean more pet-friendly restaurants in Valley

Fifi and Fido could be making an appearance at your favorite restaurant.

A new state law passed late last month makes it legal for restaurants to allow dogs on their patios beginning Jan. 1.

Although some restaurants already welcome dogs, it was technically illegal. New language in the health and safety code makes it legal — but also adds a long list of rules for dogs and diners.

As you can imagine, humans have a lot of opinions on this one. I invited people to share them with me via social media and through our blog at www.fresnobeehive.com. The opinions seemed to fall into three categories:

1) Yea! Dogs make everybody smile and restaurants that welcome them will get tons more business.

2) Ew, no. I don't want fur floating into my scrambled eggs, plus some people are allergic. And what about dogs that bite/bark/stink/poop/fart?

3) I'm OK with dogs on patios, but only if they're well-behaved. I don't like wandering, screaming 3-year-olds disrupting my meal and I feel the same about the canine equivalent.

As long as the local municipality doesn't have a law specifically banning this — Fresno, Clovis and Fresno County don't — restaurants here can choose to allow dogs in their outdoor dining areas. If restaurant owners don't want dogs around, they have every right to turn them away.

The law comes with all sorts of rules designed to keep things as clean and healthy as possible. Dogs must be on a leash or in a carrier. No sitting on chairs. Dogs can't walk through the restaurant to get to the patio. Utensils or condiments can't be stored in the open where fur could land on them. Employees who deal with food can't pet the doggies and if they do they need to wash their hands ASAP. Any poop or piddle must be cleaned up quickly.

Allowing dogs could be a great marketing move. Many dog owners in my informal survey said they would seek out restaurants where they could bring their dog. Travelers already seek out restaurants on the website and app www.bringfido.com or www.dogfriendly.com.

Local restaurants that show up on these sites include Dai Bai Dang in River Park, which allows dogs on its patio as long as no one complains. Peeve's Public House is named after the owner's dog, Peeve, so it's no surprise they allow dogs in their outdoor seating area on the Fulton Mall.

Tara Hamilton, the owner of Organic Fresno at 903 Parkway Drive, says travelers seek out her restaurant because it allows dogs on its patio. The restaurant doesn't normally have seating there, but will set it up and provide a hose for water for diners with dogs.

And well-behaved dogs are welcome at Starving Artists Bistro at Friant and Fort Washington roads. The restaurant sits them in one of two outdoor dining areas — no dogs in the other one — and brings out a water bowl and dog biscuit.

The well-behaved part is key, says owner Terry Hibbs. She describes their dog policy this way: "If your pet is friendly then the patio is pet friendly."

But any dogs that pull at the leash or bark — she admits that even her own dog has gotten a little "barky" at times — and they'll be asked to leave.

She hasn't heard any complaints about dogs from other customers, she says.

Despite the canine etiquette, dogs on the patio still won't sit well with some customers.

James "Kasper" Stewart of Fresno doesn't want to dine with them. He had this to say on the Bee's Facebook page: "I think any restaurant that allows animals will lose my business. Bad enough we have parents who won't control their damned kids. Now we have to deal with Kujo the Rottweiler who wants your steak? No."

Craig Scharton, Peeve's owner and the city of Fresno's former business development director, says he supports restaurants putting their dog policy on the front door so customers can decide where they want to go.

"Some (restaurants) would go after the no-dog market and some would go after the dog-friendly market," he says.

It will be interesting to see which way local restaurants go.

I can see dogs on the patio working out just fine at many restaurants — until someone irresponsible brings a hyper dog who bites or jumps on somebody. Then every Fido will be forbidden.

Rue Cafe

In other news, Rue Cafe has started serving breakfast. The restaurant at 6755 N. Palm Ave. will open at 7 a.m. serving quick coffee and to-go breakfasts, along with full sit-down breakfasts.

Customers on the go can get frittatas, muffins and scones. Customers with more time can order omelets, waffles, French toast, huevos rancheros, chicken-fried steak and more.

River Park

Food, fashion and wine will be in the spotlight at the Taste of River Park on Saturday.

This is a 21 and older event that benefits the American Red Cross. It features a fashion show, food sampling from River Park restaurants and wine tasting. Electric Grease and Let's Go Bowling will play live music and the Jazzy D Dance Studio will perform.

The event runs from 6-10 p.m. near Yoshino Restaurant. Tickets cost $30 beforehand, $40 at the door. They are available at most River Park boutiques, River Park Guest Services, Gazebo Gardens and online at www.atasteofriverpark.com.

Details: (559) 437-4855.

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