DC Council Passes Emergency Legislation to Allow Dogs on Restaurant and Bar Patios

AndyPants is the bar dog at the Midlands. Photo by Jessica Sidman.

Who says you can’t get things done quickly in Washington? Just a couple weeks after the DC Health Department caused a public uproar by cracking down on dogs on restaurant and bar patios, the DC Council unanimously passed emergency legislation allowing businesses to choose whether they want to have pet-friendly patios.

It started when health inspectors told owners of the Midlands in Park View and Wonderland Ballroom in Columbia Heights that they weren’t allowed to have dogs on their premises. (Bardo brewpub also got a warning.) While this has long been the law, it’s not often enforced. DOH said it was responding to “consumer complaints.”

Outrage from dog lovers was swift. Midlands owner Peyton Sherwood, whose bar dog AndyPants has a dog house at the beer garden, called on pet owners to contact their council members. He also hosted a “doggy sit-in and petition signing” to change the law.

A proposed resolution led by council members Brianne Nadeau and Vincent Gray essentially acknowledges that the health department has more important things to worry about. The resolution notes DC’s need to address food deserts, opioid abuse, mental-health services, and health-care disparities before stating, “the Department of Health’s limited time and resources are being marshaled to suddenly enforce an unknown and previously unenforced regulation about dogs being allowed in outdoor patio dining areas.”

The legislation will allow food establishments to decide whether or not they want to allow dogs in outdoor dining areas. Businesses can choose to restrict types of dog based on breed, size, or temperament. They will also be required to have signs clearly stating that dogs are permitted and provide a separate entrance to outdoor areas that do not open into indoor seating areas. Patrons will be required to keep their dogs in a carrier or on a leash at all times.

Next, Mayor Muriel Bowser will need to sign off on the legislation.

“There was enough of an uproar so quickly, can you imagine if they were like, ‘Nope?'” Sherwood says. Once everything is official, he plans to have a doggy welcome-back party.

“Andy will host it,” he says.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.