The Pinellas County Commission unanimously approved new rules Tuesday that will allow people to bring their dogs to outdoor areas at restaurants and cafes.
The new ordinance does not require businesses to open their sidewalks and patios to dogs; rather, it lets those interested apply for a $215 permit, subjecting them to a series of rules in exchange for potentially bringing in more business.
Leashes will be required and dogs will not be allowed on chairs or tables. Bottles of hand sanitizer must be stationed at each table in designated dog-friendly areas. If restaurant or cafe employees pet a dog, they must wash their hands after.
"Accidents involving dog waste shall be cleaned immediately and the area sanitized," the law reads. Establishments must keep "a kit with the appropriate materials" at the ready for this task.
At the hearing on Tuesday, two people spoke in favor of the ordinance and no one protested it.
Steven Jefferis, who owns the Fairway Pizza and Sports Page Pub in Palm Harbor, urged the commission to pass the ordinance. For years, he said, he allowed patrons to bring dogs to his restaurant. Then someone complained, and county health officials made him stop. The traffic began to taper off.
"Since then my business has suffered," he told the commission. "I urge you to pass this ordinance."
St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Dunedin already have local ordinances in place that allow dogs into permitted restaurants' outdoor dining areas.