Recent changes to state health codes makes it easier for you and your canine pals to enjoy outdoor dining together

click to enlarge Recent changes to state health codes makes it easier for you and your canine pals to enjoy outdoor dining together
Washington restaurant patios are now pup friendly.

One of summer's many perks is patio dining at a local eatery. The ambient lighting, cool breeze and ability to be outdoors makes it one of the most fun and enjoyable things you can do during the season.

Until recently, due to the Washington State Retail Food Code, dogs weren't able to join in that al fresco fun because they weren't allowed on restaurant premises unless they were a service animal.

But on March 1, the state made some changes to those rules, and it's now possible for canines and their companions to enjoy a meal out together, outdoors.

"Food establishments [are] now allowed to have pet dogs on their outdoor patios if they submit their plans to the health jurisdiction," says Lisa Breen, manager of the Spokane Regional Health District's Food Safety Program.

While dogs can be on patios, they're still not allowed inside restaurants unless they're service animals, so food establishments must have outdoor access to patio seating to be in compliance with the regulations.

Restaurants also must fill out a form with the health district that outlines plans for things like dealing with customers who aren't maintaining control of their dogs, as well as the restaurant's cleanup plan. Those plans must be reviewed and approved by the health district before dogs are allowed on the premises.

Meanwhile, for establishments that have little to no food preparation occurring on site, such as tasting rooms and some breweries, rules regarding dogs, specifically inside of the building, changed even more.

"Legislation passed an allowance for those types of facilities to provide notification to the local health jurisdiction if they wanted to have pets allowed inside the establishment," Breen says. "There still needs to be signage on the door that [the] establishment allows for pet dogs, and then there's other criteria they should have a plan for, but they don't require the same preapproval for it because the food preparation activity is limited."

These changes so far have been well received by local businesses with outdoor seating as summer has spurred more diners onto patios.

"As a rescue animal-focused restaurant, we are grateful that the regional health departments reviewed their stance on having dogs on patios," says Josh Wade, co-owner of Bark, A Rescue Pub.

"The public has embraced this change, and it is not uncommon to visit Bark and see a dog accompanying every patio table," he adds.

Some restaurants like Bark not only provide water for dogs, but also have treats to make the dining experience special for its four-legged customers, too.

"Our animals are like family members and being able to enjoy outdoor life with them is a part of living in the Northwest," Wade says. ♦

50th Annual POAC Arts & Crafts Fair @ Downtown Sandpoint

Sat., Aug. 13, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sun., Aug. 14, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • or