INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Taking your dog out to eat at restaurants may soon be legal here.
The city's planning and zoning board will meet Aug. 20 to consider a proposed "doggie dining" ordinance that would allow patrons to bring their dogs to city restaurants that offer outside dining.
"It is a very interesting idea," Mayor R.B. Johnson said Tuesday. "If a restaurant wants to do this, we would like to give them the option. It would add to the small-town atmosphere of Indian Rocks."
The commission began discussing the "enabling legislation" last spring.
"St. Petersburg and Jacksonville already do it," said the city's planning and zoning director Danny Taylor.
In 2006 the state legislature approved a three-year pilot program allowing municipalities to permit dogs in outside restaurant areas.
The law temporarily expired in June but will go back into effect in October, Taylor said.
By that time, the city expects to pass its new ordinance.
Taylor said many of the city's 42 restaurants have outside dining areas. If the ordinance is approved by the commission, the restaurants would not be required to provide doggie dining facilities, but could opt to do so.
Participating restaurants would be required to submit a permit application showing the dimensions of the doggie dining area and the planned hours of operation.
Restaurant employees would be required to wash their hands "promptly" if they touch, pet or handle visiting dogs — and would not be allowed to serve human food until they have done so.
Hand sanitizers would be provided for the restaurants' human patrons, who would be urged to wash their hands, as well, before eating.
Dogs would be required to be kept on a leash and barred from sitting or otherwise occupying chairs, tables or other restaurant furnishings.
Dog owners would be required to "immediately" clean up and dispose of their dog's waste.
At no time would the dogs be allowed inside restaurant buildings.
Matt Loder, who operates Crabby Bill's Restaurant in the city, is looking forward to the day doggie dining is legal.
The restaurant has outside seating for 75 people and began allowing patrons to bring their dogs about a year ago.
"We were told it was not sanctioned in Indian Rocks Beach, so we had to put up signs saying that dogs were not allowed," Loder said.
He hopes city commissioners will change that restriction.
"We have a lot of customers who are passionate about their animals and don't want to leave them in their cars," Loder said.
If the new doggie dining rules are approved, Loder plans to offer special "watering stations" and free biscuits for canine guests.