Thursday, August 11, 2016

Restaurants going to the dogs?

A couple of times, when we were dog sitting, my husband I were able to eat out at Salem restaurants with our beloved dog nephew Jack. These were both outdoor situations, late lunch so not that crowded. Jack lolled under the table, and we gave him an occasional treat. I think the restaurant provided our boy with water.

We always wanted to get Jack over to Yappier Hour – cocktail hour for pups -  at Boston’s Liberty Hotel,. Alas, we never made it. Probably for the best. While Jim and I would have loved it, Jack really isn’t much of a city boy. With his easy going personality and ability to make both inter- and intra-species connections, Jack probably would not have minded the social hour. But he would have hated the walk over. Only five minutes, but along a busy street and with a chaotic intersection.

Apparently, doggy dining is not all that much of an anomaly. Or so I learned from an article I saw on Bloomberg.

Posh spots in London, New York, and California are inviting our four legged friends to come on in. And we’re not talking about service dogs, or “comfort animals” with their phony paperwork.We’re talking about plain old doggy dogs. (Of course, whether their papers are in order or not, the truth is that pretty much all dogs are comfort animals, at least IMHO.)

This spring, New York City's health department issued new rules allowing dogs in outdoor areas of restaurants. After California passed a similar law two years ago, restaurants there have been putting out water bowls, leash stands and other doggie amenities, the California Restaurant Association said.

"It's very gratifying when people say they can go out for dinner more often because we welcome dogs," said Jeremy King, co-owner of several hit London restaurants that open their doors to dogs, including brasserie Bellanger, Colbert and the American Bar at the Beaumont.(Source: Bloomberg)

While the US is coming around, dogs are supposedly more generally welcome in Europe than in the US. The FDA, in fact, recommends keeping all but service dogs out of the dining room. But if Europe is so much dog-friendlier, I don’t recall ever seeing dogs eating out in Europe.

Not that I would have minded (mostly).

Anyway, if you’re worried about hygiene, don’t be:

The fears around health and safety are overblown, said Dr. Lisa Ackerley, a professorial fellow at the Royal Society for Public Health and food-safety adviser to the British Hospitality Association.

"It's a myth," she said. "If they are not in the kitchen, they can't contaminate food that is being prepared, and in a dining room they are no more of a risk than humans."

"People are unhygienic," Ackerley said. "How many sit down and start handling food without even washing their hands? If we are worried about hygiene, we should worry about ourselves."

Whether dogs or people are more or less hygienic, I make no bones about the fact that I’m a dog lover.

Still, I’m not quite sure I’d be happy if, all of a sudden, all restaurants were dog-friendly. Maybe just some of them.

After all, dogs do represent a tripping hazard. And there’s no denying that, especially among older dogs, flatulence can be a bit of a problema. Not to mention that, while dogs are in general wonderful and marvelous, some small dogs are yappers. And if I were going out for a really fancy meal, I wouldn’t necessarily want mutts underfoot. On the other hand, I’ve been to plenty of places where people let their free-range kids run around, squawking and squalling, and generally making life unpleasant for all the diners who aren’t related to them. So if I had to pick one or the other, I might come down on the side of pooches. I have yet to see a dog throwing a tantrum.

In any case, I will be on the lookout for dog-friendly places. I’m dog sitting for Jack in a couple of weeks. Maybe I’ll take him out to lunch one day.

Meanwhile, it’s not just dogs that are getting their day:

There's a waiting list for tables at Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium, which bills itself as London’s first Cat Cafe.

Cats sneakily slinking around, rubbing up against my ankles. That happened to me once at McSorley’s Ale House in NYC. I let out a tiny bit of a shriek. Considering the decrepitude of the surroundings, I thought it was a rat. Cats in restaurant? That’s where I draw a line in the kitty litter.

1 comment:

Adam Gaffin said...

Boston considers dogs in restaurants a "critical" violation - and a small dog was one of the reasons the city shut the $14-a-salad Sweetgreen on Boylston Street this week (granted, there were more serious violations, such as workers not washing their hands or changing gloves and food being kept at the wrong temperatures).