It’s been 20 years since dogs were banished from restaurants. But this spring both the State Assembly and Senate passed a bill making it legal for dogs to be in outdoor cafés, including the outdoor parts of restaurants that have outdoor cafés. The bill requires that a café attached to a restaurant be accessible both from the main entrance to the restaurant, as well as from the street or parking area. The idea is that people who don’t want to be around dogs don’t have to be. Nobody with a dog will even pass through the inside of the restaurant. Not a paw will touch carpet.
Many municipalities and states around the country have already passed new laws giving dogs rights to be in outdoor cafés. It’s not quite up there with transgender rights and rights to vote and rights to be gay and get married. Consider it one of those groundswells. After all, dogs are people, too.
On the other hand, passing this bill has resulted in some confusion. This is because until now, there have been restaurants in this area that DO allow dogs on the premises, in spite of the old law, and however that happens—maybe there’s chickens running around too—the ordinance inspector does not step in. Others have been letting people dine with their dogs in a café area, provided the diner leashes the dog to a bench or pole on the sidewalk a few steps away. Still others allow dogs at the tables, both indoor and out, as long as the dog is tiny and quiet.
What people don’t know is that Governor Cuomo has not yet signed the bill into law. It has to be “sent” to the governor, which, at Albany speed, means it might take six weeks to travel a few hundred yards, so it actually might not go into effect during our outdoor café season. And after the governor “receives” the bill, he still has 30 days to decide whether to veto it. At this writing, the bill has not even been “sent.” I say have the Governor send his dog to the Capitol Building—I know he has a dog—and say “Fetch newspaper, go!” and watch how fast he can get it to him.
I have a dog. I figured some restaurants might think the change is already in effect. I made some calls. Well, how things stand is all over the lot. Some restaurants mistakenly think it’s been signed and so allow dogs, others say they still don’t allow dogs even with the new law, some say they know it isn’t in effect but how could the Governor refuse this so it’s okay, others say I’m waiting for it to be signed so I still don’t allow dogs, and at least one restaurant says it’s in effect but just in New York City so no dogs here and I won’t budge until I hear it from the Suffolk County Board of Health.
Frankly, my dog is champing at the bit. She, of course, wasn’t even around before dogs were banned from restaurants. She can’t wait to find out what one is like.