TSD: Delaware’s best take on events, community and local life
Four-legged fans of outdoor dining were lapping up the news out of Dewey Beach today, where Governor Carney joined legislators for a bill signing event that allows leashed dogs on the outdoor patios of beer gardens and food establishments.
Social media marketer Gaby Indellini created a Facebook group last summer to mobilize efforts for new dog-friendly legislation. “It’s definitely a win for tourism, for dog parents, and for restaurants with outdoor seating. And I think it’s also a big win for the shelters who can continue to host adoption events at locations other than their shelters,” said Indellini.
Indellini added that establishments in Wilmington (like Makers Alley,Grain Craft Kitchen + Bar and Constitution Yards Beer Garden) and the beach will be especially relieved the Governor signed the bill today. “I used to work for the Greater Wilmington Visitor’s Bureau. People are going to choose to visit places where they can take their animals, and residents are going to choose to live in places where they can take their animals,” she said.
House Bill 275 came to life swiftly after the state Department of Public Health inadvertently set animal lovers howling last summer by suggesting a clampdown on a previously unenforced – and largely unknown – provision in state law banning animals from dining establishments.
Health officials quickly backpedaled saying they had no immediate intention to enforce the current statute, but the kerfluffle spooked restaurant owners and animal advocates alike, all of whom mobilized a call to action.
Legislation was quickly introduced by none other than House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf – himself a dog lover and regular outdoor patio habitué of Sussex County spots including Woody’s. Schwartzkopf oversaw today’s bill signing with State Representative Jeff Spiegelman, another supporter of the measure, and other members of the General Assembly.
“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.
“It [the legislation] affects us in a big way,” said Tim Hardy, a bartender at Woody’s Dewey Beach. “At least one-third of our customers bring dogs. When people search for pet-friendly restaurants at the beach, we’re the number one place that comes up. And all of our staff loves dogs, too.”
The Coastal Highway restaurant does a brisk outdoor business with a dozen tables that are full when the weather is nice.
Schwartzkopf says he “always enjoyed taking my dog with me to grab breakfast. With this new law, we’ve resolved the issue for good so that without any confusion, restaurateurs and patrons can go back to the system we had enjoyed for years.”
Carney said the bill would benefit both Delawareans and visitors to the state, particularly families visiting coastal resorts with outdoor dining.
“The reality is many Delawareans and visitors with pets enjoy spending time with them, and this bill will allow them to do that in outdoor seating areas at restaurants that offer it,” said Carney.
While local marketer JulieAnne Cross doesn’t typically bring her dogs to restaurants, she would like to know she has the option. Since last summer, she has regularly voiced her support for the new legislation.
“I am glad that in this case logic prevailed. I just felt strongly that everyone’s arguments against the new legislation were dumb,” said Cross. “There are squirrels and raccoons and birds that poop right on the outdoor tables, and the idea that it’s a health issue is insane. And I know some people have a fear of dogs at restaurants. But I’m not sure that’s what this legislation is all about. This is a health regulation, and I think we’re going in the right direction.”