It’s a tradition at many local breweries to stop in with your best friend and have a beer. At least it was, if your best friend happens to be the four-legged kind. In a letter dated Aug. 13, the Duval County Florida Department of Health (FDOH) “reminded” local breweries that dogs are not allowed in taprooms.
To many owners of breweries, taprooms and bar, this puts a serious crimp in their business.
“I think we will see a change in overall business,” said Dennis Espinosa of Historic Springfield’s Main & Six Brewing Company. “People who are used to bringing their dogs with them will choose to stay home.”
Many breweries have had a somewhat open door policy on dogs. Since most don’t serve food, they felt that they were exempt from Florida Administrative Code 64E-11, which bans live birds and animals from food service establishments. The code defines food as “any raw, cooked or processed edible substance, ice, beverage or ingredient used or intended for use in whole, or in part, for human consumption.”
In Jax Beach, Green Room Brewing Company has a more than seven-year history of allowing dogs in the taproom. Owner Mark Stillman is so disturbed by what appears to be a sudden and unforeseen enforcement action that he started a Change.org petition asking people to denounce the decision and sign the petition. As of this writing, it has more than 26,000 signatures.
“We consider this is a small-minded, authoritarian approach,” Stillman writes in the petition. “Since it has nothing to do with public health.”
According to some scholars, he might be right.
In an article on Healthline.com, veterinarian Dr. Eva Evans says, “A healthy dog that is fully vaccinated and on a monthly parasite prevention […] will pose an extremely low risk to human health.”
The abstract of a paper published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s website reads, in part, “the relative risk associated with specific pet-human interactions in the dining public has yet to be established in a clear and consistent manner.”
FDOH Deputy Press Secretary Brad Dalton cited 64E-11 in a response to an email requesting information. “There is no current push for enforcement,” Dalton wrote. “The Duval County Health Department sent out a letter as a reminder to all restaurants and bars in that county.”
The Duval FDOH sent a standard response to a request for comment that reiterated the state code and seemed to note that the petition would have no effect on the law.
In Murray Hill, finishing touches are being put on the soon-to-open Fishweir Brewing Company. Owner Broc Flores said that since they weren’t open yet, he’s unsure how the letter will affect his business.
“We have already marketed our taproom as pet-friendly,” Flores said. “So this ruling changes our marketing significantly. […] People want to bring their pets, especially when we’re within walking distance.”
If there’s one bright spot, it’s that the law doesn’t restrict bars or breweries from allowing pets in outdoor areas. As far as a compromise, this seems to be the only way FDOH will allow animals in or around taprooms.