DUNEDIN — The city is considering tweaking its "doggie dining" ordinance to ensure that pooches will be allowed not just outside restaurants, but also outside city taverns, bars and lounges.
The potential change comes at the request of Rosie's Tavern owner Julie Brown, who was recently informed by Pinellas health inspectors that state rules prohibit dogs from entering bars.
Restaurants and bars are regulated by different state agencies, which has led to some confusion.
Dunedin's current ordinance applies only to restaurants, which are licensed by the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The city ordinance allows dogs in outside dining areas at restaurants as long as they get a city permit and follow specific hygiene and food handling practices.
But bar-only establishments like Rosie's are licensed by the state Department of Health, which has its own rules. One rule says live animals can't be in an area that conducts food service. The Health Department considers ice a food because humans ingest it.
For years, Brown and other city bar owners have allowed customers' furry friends to lounge inside their establishments, which Dunedin officials told the Times they thought was okay because the businesses don't serve food in the traditional sense.
Brown said Health Department officials have told her dogs can continue to sit with their owners outside her tavern. But Brown attended Thursday's commission meeting to ask city leaders to clear up any potential future confusion by amending their outdoor doggie-dining ordinance to specifically include bar-only establishments.
"It's definitely hurt everybody," Brown said. "There are five other businesses that operate the same business model as I do. …We get a lot of business from all over the state that comes to Dunedin strictly because they can be with their pets."
On Thursday, commissioners asked City Attorney Tom Trask to research whether an ordinance change would conflict with county rules.
"Our intention when we created the doggie-dining ordinance wasn't to exclude bar owners. It was to include everyone who has outdoor seating," said Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski.
Added Mayor Dave Eggers: "Certainly, if we allow dogs around food at restaurants outside, we would allow dogs around no food at bars outside. It just makes logical sense."
In other news
In a 5-0 commission vote, Dunedin agreed to share recreation resources with Safety Harbor, Oldsmar and Tarpon Springs.
Under the agreement, the four cities will honor one another's resident rates for certain recreational facilities and classes. That means residents need only to flash the recreation ID card purchased in their respective cities for access to skate parks, dance classes, youth athletics and other activities. Camps and golf and boat slip facilities are excluded.
City officials will regularly monitor foot traffic and revenue numbers in coming months to ensure that Dunedin residents' access to city facilities isn't limited by the new arrangement and also assess the partnership's crossover appeal.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.