Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dogs may soon be legal at city cafes

Dogs may soon be legal at city cafes
By Mickey Ciokajlo and Kristen Kridel
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
August 18, 2007

Pet pooches may—finally and officially—get a place at the table, or at least under it, at outdoor cafes in Chicago.

Legislation signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich allows the city to make legal what waiters from Lincoln Park to the West Loop have allowed with a wink and a nod. A proposed ordinance to allow dogs to accompany their owners while dining is expected to be reviewed by an aldermanic committee this month.

"We're a world-class city and people have been doing this for a long time, so why not allow them to do this in a regulated way so it's safe and clean?" Chicago Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th), a co-sponsor, said Friday.

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Dog lovers are practically drooling over the prospect.

After working a full day, Luke Dussman hates to see the look on his black Labrador's face when he heads out the door again.

"I like to bring him everywhere," said Dussman, 28, of Lakeview.

Angela Dedenbach finds herself at The Rail Bar and Grill, at Damen and Leland Avenues, several times a week because employees let her dine with her morkie, Milo. on her lap. No other restaurant in the neighborhood allows that, she said.

"He's trying to get my burger off my plate right now," said Dedenbach, 48. "He steals hearts everywhere he goes."

Toni Alamilla, 40, had a different reaction.

"I wouldn't want [dogs] sitting there with their tongues out," said Alamilla, who was at a table outside Chili Mac's 5-Way Chili in the 3100 block of North Broadway.

The city's proposal, which spells out the terms and conditions under which restaurant owners may allow dogs at their sidewalk cafes and beer gardens, will be considered by the Committee on License and Consumer Protection, which is headed by Schulter.

The Daley administration's Health Department had been cool to the idea, but Schulter said he believes they've reached agreement after negotiating how to maximize cleanliness in outdoor areas that allow dogs.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit dogs from sitting on a seat, table or countertop; forbid employees from handling the dogs; mandate cleaning up all spilled food among customers; and provide disposable towels and liquid hand sanitizer at every table that permits dogs.

Restaurants with outdoor seating would not be required to allow dogs. If they decide to, they would have to apply for a license, Schulter said.

The state law signed Friday states that no pet dog can be inside any restaurant or in any area where food is prepared. Also, a restaurant will have the right to refuse to serve a dog's owner who fails to "exercise reasonable control" over his four-legged friend and a restaurant can refuse service if a dog threatens the health or safety of anyone at the eatery.

"People bringing their dogs outside with them has been a common sight around the city," said Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago). While he takes his 90-pound reddish vizsla named Marley to his district office, Fritchey leaves him home when he eats out.

"I won't bring him to a restaurant because he has an innate desire to play with everybody," he said.

Rogers Park resident Eric Sweigard appreciates the chance to keep his dog close. His Chesapeake Bay retriever was attacked by another dog while tied up outside a cafe in Andersonville, he said.

"He's a 3-year-old human at this point," Sweigard said. "I kind of like to keep my boy next to me."

Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), the Senate sponsor whose district reaches from the Gold Coast to Ravenswood Manor, said the ban on dogs predated the popularity of outdoor cafes. Still, he worries about going out to eat with his wiry Kerry blue terrier named Keelan.

"Actually, I don't think our dog would qualify . . . because it will be difficult to exercise reasonable control over Keelan," Cullerton said.

Ald. Thomas Tunney (44th) said he doubted he would allow dogs at his Ann Sather's restaurant on Southport Avenue because the sidewalk is too small.

"[But] I think the idea of at least giving the restaurateur the option to do it makes sense," he said.


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