Governor signs law that permits dogs in outdoor areas of restaurants

In Delaware, dogs are not allowed on tables or chairs. (Pixabay photo)

When the Speaker of the House’s dog is violating state health regulations when paying a visit to a restaurant patio, the wheels of government can turn quickly.

That was the case when Gov. John Carney signed into law HouseBill 275, which allows dogs in outdoor seating areas. The measure comes in time for the spring and summer patio season.

Sponsored by House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, the bill comes in response to a notice that the Delaware Division of Public Health sent to restaurants and posted on social media last summer informing them of a rarely-enforced regulation prohibiting customers from bringing their pets to the outdoor seating areas of restaurants. The notice led to confusion among restaurateurs and customers.

The posts from the Division of Public Health led to a lively discussion on dogs in restaurants, with some diners not happy to see the growing number of pets and owners on patios and decks.

Over the years, dining with the family pet had become commonplace in Delaware and elsewhere with websites listing canine-friendly restaurants that often provided water bowls.

“I was shocked to hear that pets couldn’t accompany their owners to restaurants after years of this policy not being enforced. Many, including myself, had no idea this policy existed,” said Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach.

HB 275 allows the owner of a beer garden or food establishment to permit leashed dogs on licensed outdoor patios of food establishments and in beer gardens. The establishment still would need to abide by any health regulations and cleanliness rules.

Carney signed HB 275 into law at Woody’s Dewey Beach, a popular restaurant that has accommodated dogs on its outside patio for years, providing water bowls for pups.

Regulations still limit dogs to areas near or under tables, not on the table itself. Restaurants also have the right to bar dogs, due to space or other concerns.

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