Some call it “Yappy Hour.” For others, it’s “Lappy Hour.” There’s also “Pets on the Porch.”
Restaurants throughout Nashville offer special periods when pet-owner patrons are welcome to bring their dogs to outdoor dining areas. By law, however, Metro does not allow dogs — besides guide or service dogs — on restaurant property, according to Metro Council attorney Jon Cooper.
Armed with this knowledge, Metro Councilwoman Karen Bennett, an avowed animal lover who represents the Inglewood area in East Nashville, has proposed a bill that would officially allow dogs onto the exterior dining areas of restaurants.
“It was a surprise to me, until about a month ago, that it is against the law to have your pet at the exterior seating at a restaurant,” Bennett said. “I think restaurants have been doing it for quite some time.”
The bill, set to go before the council for the first of three votes on Tuesday, would take advantage of a state law passed last year that authorizes municipalities with populations greater than 100,000 people to allow dogs in outside eating areas.
If approved, owners of Nashville restaurants would decide themselves whether they want to allow dogs into their establishments. In order to do so, restaurants would pay an annual fee of $20 to receive a special permit through the Metro Health Department.
Taking into account various health and sanitation concerns, Bennett’s legislation, as dictated by state law, establishes several rules and guidelines, including:
• Restaurant employees would be required to wash their hands after touching dogs.
• Restaurants would reserve the right to refuse to serve an owner if the owner “fails to exercise reasonable control over the pet dog” or if the dog acts in a manner that compromises the health or safety of others.
• Employees of restaurants would be instructed to not allow dogs to come into contact with dining utensils, plates and other equipment.
• Patrons would be required to keep their dogs on leashes no longer than six feet.
• Dogs would not be allowed on chairs, tables or other furnishings.
• Accidents involving dog waste must be cleaned up and sanitized immediately. Restaurants would be required to keep cleaning kits near outdoor areas for this purpose.
• Restaurants allowing pets in outdoor dining areas would be required to post a sign that outlines applicable rules.
Bennett, who volunteers for the Nashville Humane Association, has a history of animal-oriented legislation, having earlier this year successfully spearheaded a new law that restricts the sale of pets outdoors in an attempt to stop unqualified vendors from selling dogs and cats on street corners.
Consider the dogs-in-restaurants bill Bennett’s latest pet-inspired bill.
“Those of us that are pet lovers, when we’re done at the end of our shift or our work time, instead of leaving our pets at home while we go out to dine, we have the opportunity to take our pets with us,” Bennett said.