Why Not in Newport?

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Dogs Dining Out?

A local dog owner begs the question: Why can’t canine companions dine out, too?- By Jean Hastings Ardell

While vacationing in France several years ago, it became clear: Dogs can dine out in fine style. In Paris we saw dogs and their owners dining in companionable harmony inside bistros, cafes and restaurants. “People on a leash,” my husband called the dogs that rested beneath tables or sat on banquettes. “Just look at them,” he said, with a nod at two freshly groomed gray poodles. “They behave better than some people’s kids back home.”  “Good point,” I thought.But we were not dog owners back then. That changed in June of last year, when a small tan dog adopted me. Abandoned and underweight, we made eye contact in a Compton parking lot. She wagged her tail, and I was hooked. So was my husband after he heard her story.Angel, as we call her, has abandonment issues, so we try to take her everywhere we can. (Doting on her as we do, we also have abandonment issues with leaving her home.) That’s when our dining-out habits began to change: Which cafes had outside seating where dogs were welcome? Corona del Mar’s Zinc Cafe and Rose Bakery Cafe are two appealing daytime options. Pain du Monde in Fashion Island works well for dinner, though the season must be considered. This past winter, I invited my friend Anne and her two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels to dinner there. As we perused the menu, we realized that, despite our warm jackets, we were freezing. The dogs were shivering, too. Anne suggested we walk over to the Yard House, where the patio has heaters. There, the hostess told us that the dogs would have to be tied up outside the fence; we could have the table just inside the fence. We tried it. But dogs get nervous when they don’t feel welcome. All three whimpered their protests and ultimately squeezed under the fence. As Anne prepared to take her spaniels to her car, I said, “Gee, if we were in Paris, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

We don’t live in Paris, though. We live in Corona del Mar, a part of town with a large population of canines. It’s not uncommon to see dogs wheeled along in baby carriages, where shop-owners routinely leave bowls of treats and/or water outside their doors, and where a good part of the street life has to do with dogs. So why not allow well-behaved dogs in the restaurants of Newport Beach?

Health code law is why Angel and her kind are canine non grata inside dining establishments. I hoped this was a city ordinance and that a dog-friendly restaurant owner, faced with Angel’s liquid brown eyes and my persuasive lobbying, might be willing to bend the law. Not so. Denise Fennessy, the assistant director of the County of Orange Health Care Agency/Environmental Health, explains that government, at all levels, frowns on the idea.

According to the 2009 FDA Food Code, section 6-501.115, “live animals may not be allowed on the premises of a food establishment.” (Exemptions include patrol dogs accompanying police or security officers; service animals accompanied by the disabled; and pets that live with their owners in institutional care facilities.)

The California Retail Food Code, Denise points out, is “similar on this issue.”

Like many laws, such codes are likely in force because common sense did not prevail. Parisians understand this. Restaurant owners there have the option to permit dogs to dine-in, given their customers’ sensibilities and their establishment’s physical layout. I’d like to see that latitude here. Certain restaurants could accommodate a dog-friendly area, away from people who don’t care for canine companionship when they dine out. I bet there’d be a line of dog owners out the door. To get more flexibility in U.S. and county law, however, will require well-organized, dedicated lobbying by dog owners. Meanwhile, you can visit dogfriendly.com for a list of restaurants and cafes that welcome your dog, albeit on the patio. NBM

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