Beer Hounds: The Risks of Pups at Breweries, Wineries, and Beyond

March 23, 2020 by

As springtime begins, winery and brewery patios are bound to fill up with patrons looking to enjoy a nice meal and drinks in the beautiful weather. In recent years, pets have started to become more frequent guests at these sit-down locations. The trend is convenient for pet owners, who can spend quality time with all of their friends – human and canine.

A pet-friendly policy can serve to boost business at breweries and wineries, encouraging patrons to hang out longer and enjoy a full glass rather than a tasting. However, allowing pets on the premises also comes with several legal and logistical risks — risks that agents and brokers can help their clients understand.

What Are the Risks?

This pet-friendly trend comes as no surprise if we consider that pets are an integral part of American life. Sixty-seven percent of households own pets, according to the National Pet Owners Survey. Another way to put things into perspective is this: In 2019, an estimated $75.38 million was spent on the pet industry in the United States, up from $48.35 million at the beginning of the decade in 2010. This industry is on the rise and could mean big business for those accommodating furry friends in their establishments.

Before considering a pet-friendly policy, business owners can research laws addressing pets on restaurant and bar premises in the states where they do business. The Americans With Disabilities Act has long required establishments to allow service animals, and denying entry to patrons with service animals would constitute discrimination. Over the past several years, many states have enacted laws that allow or restrict non-service dogs or other pets on outdoor patios at restaurants, breweries, and wineries.

In the absence of clear regulations, many business owners simply implemented their own pet policies. However, as the trend has grown, it has become more important to understand these state laws. As of 2020, 17 states allow dogs in outdoor patio areas. So, it is in these states only that pet owners may legally be on the premises with their pawed pals. However, where pets are allowed, there are several restrictions. Some of the more common ones include:

  • People with pets must enter and exit through outdoor entrances to the patio dining areas, keeping the pet from entering the main dining facility.
  • Employees must wash their hands after touching pets and cannot do so while in the process of preparing or serving food.
  • Pet owners must keep their pets on leashes so they can be held under control at all times.
  • Pets cannot sit on furniture at the venue, including chairs and tables on the patio.
  • Pets must not be permitted in any area where food is prepared.

Second, before allowing pets on the premises, business owners of breweries, wineries and the like must be aware of potential health concerns. In theory, allowing pets in the establishment opens a number of potential issues that could stem from a pet’s fur to its waste and even to biting risks for other customers. Dog hair and pet waste can not only create an unsanitary dining environment, they can cause discomfort or spread illness due to allergies and other issues. Agents and brokers should talk to their clients about the risks involved in welcoming pets into their facilities and whether a pet-friendly policy could hurt or help business.

As agents and brokers talk to their brewery and winery clients about their pet polices, they can recommend several steps these business owners can take to mitigate their risk. These steps include:

Obtain a pet-friendly permit: Management should confirm their business meets local guidelines for obtaining pet-friendly permits.

Use the appropriate signage: To that end, brewery and winery owners should post signage at the front of their buildings and on the patios indicating pets are allowed and stating the rules.

Restrict staff contact with pets: Staff should be restricted from making contact with pets while on shift, since this runs the risk of transmitting germs to the food.

Have staff dedicated to keeping the venue clean: Staff should keep the patio completely clean of any animal hair, dander, waste and more. Any waste must be cleaned up with animal friendly chemicals within five minutes and staff should maintain a log for inspectors and customers.

Require leashes: By requiring pet owners to use leashes, management can make sure pets are always under control and watched by their owners. Also, any pets on site should have a collar or harness with a current rabies tag and registration tag.

Restrict pet access: Pets cannot be allowed to use seats, tables, countertops or any surfaces, as this opens up the chance for health hazards. Pets should also not be allowed to contact dishes or utensils.

Utilize single-use, disposable containers: All food and water provided to pets should be in single-use, disposable containers to minimize the chance of cross contamination.

Today, pets are as much a part of the family as anyone, and with this growing trend has come a great opportunity.