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County considers dog-friendly dining
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Dog owners and restaurateurs await a decision by Pinellas County Commissioners that would allow a dog-friendly dining program.
CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioners will decide April 9 if eateries in unincorporated areas can have a dog-friendly dining program.

Commissioners seemed favorable to the idea during the first public hearing March 19.

The proposed amendment to the land development code to allow restaurants to apply for a permit to have dogs in outdoor areas took most of the 10-minute-long public hearing segment of Tuesday’s meeting.

Only one person from the public spoke. Steven Jeffries of Palm Harbor told the commission that he and his wife had lost customers since finding out their restaurant could not allow dogs in the outdoor dining area. He said dogs had been allowed for the past three years. Then one customer complained, and the staff from the Pinellas County Health Department visited and told the couple the dogs had to go.

“People who used to come with their dogs don’t come anymore,” he said.

He said allowing restaurants the choice would be a benefit. He said he was willing to meet all the requirements of the proposed amendment.

If the commission gives the green light, state-licensed restaurants, cafes and other public food service establishments could apply for a permit to allow dogs in designated outdoor areas. Permit holders would be required to follow rules for employees, rules regarding where dogs are allowed, rules for sanitation and rules for proper signage. Dog would have to be kept on a leash, kept off furniture and out of non-dog friendly areas.

Yearly permits would be issued, which cannot be transferred. The permit price, which has not been set, would cover cost of staff review, permitting and site inspections.

Commission Chair Ken Welch said nine municipalities currently allow dog friendly dining and no problems have been reported.

“You have a lot of support up here,” Welch told Jeffries.

“Mr. Jeffries is the reason I brought this forward,” said Commissioner Susan Latvala. “Other restaurants have expressed an interest. I support giving them the ability and right to do it if their clientele want.”
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