California diners can now legally enjoy a meal on a restaurant patio with their dogs in tow, under a law signed Thursday by Governor Jerry Brown that eliminates health code regulations banning restaurant owners from allowing pooches on the premises.
Starting next year, California canines will be allowed to dine al fresco if they are wearing leashes or are relaxing in a carrier.
"“I wish everyone ‘bone-appétit,’” quipped Democratic Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, the law's author. "Restaurateurs in California will see more businesses catering to their customers and the canine companions they love.”
The new law clarifies a section of the state’s health code that banned dogs from restaurants altogether, including on outdoor patios or courtyards. The rule has caused confusion because some local governments choose to enforce the law, while others turned a blind eye.
In counties where local officials were more lax about enforcement, restaurant owners who encouraged their guests to bring their pups to dinner were at risk of facing penalties for a health code violation.
“We’re thrilled that now restaurants will have more freedom to determine for themselves the customers they’d like to serve,” said Angelica Pappas, spokeswoman for the California Restaurant Association. “For many, the four-legged kind - and their people - are a hungry market.”
The law only allows dogs on restaurant patios if there is a separate entrance where they can enter the outdoor area without entering the restaurant building.
Further restrictions also ban dogs from sitting on chairs or benches, mingling in kitchens, or making direct contact with servers or cooks. Pet owners will also be held liable for any property damage their dogs cause.
The law does not require local governments to allow pets on the restaurant patios, however, so some may still ban them.
The law made it through the legislature with wide bipartisan support. Governor Brown, whose dog Sutter Brown is a Sacramento icon complete with his own Twitter account, did not comment on the signing of the bill.
(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Eric Walsh)