Dog daze! City is going after Brooklyn’s pooch-friendly bars

Dog daze! City is going after Brooklyn’s pooch-friendly bars
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The city has cracked down on the borough’s pooch-loving bars — and North Brooklyn is especially in the doghouse.

Health Department officials wrote 125 tickets for “live animal violations” at bars and restaurants in Brooklyn between July, 2010 and July, 2011 — and one-quarter of the summonses were in Williamsburg and Bushwick.

City law forbids animals — with the exception of service dogs and fish in tanks — from being present at establishments that serve food and drink.

“Animals shed hair continuously, may deposit liquid or fecal waste [and] carry disease-causing organisms.” the code reads.

Owners of pet-friendly establishments — some of whom have created an identity around their beer-in-hand, dog-on-leash patio vibe — say the anti-pup enforcement began to boom after the city adopted a letter system for grading restaurant cleanliness last year.

“I understand the law, but I love dogs and think they should be allowed,” said Kristen Warrenfells of Variety Café on Graham Avenue, one of the joints that got slapped with a fine.

In addition to the blitz on Williamsburg and Bushwick, Mission Dolores in Park Slope and Rope in Fort Greene were also cited. In Southern Brooklyn, Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge received the most violations, with eateries such as John’s Famous Deli on Stillwell Avenue and Nablus Sweets and Pastries on Fifth Avenue getting tickets.

“It’s a big deal for us,” said John Rauschenberg, who co-owns Pacific Standard, a beer bar on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope that was cited for having a pooch on the premises. “A lot of people who walk their dogs come in here. In restaurants, [the rule is] reasonable, but not here.”

The Department of Health defended the ticket blitz, explaining that pets can spread communicable diseases. For decades, it has been against city rules to have pets in a restaurants — or anywhere near a cocktail — but many business owners, especially bar owners, have been lax about following this particular law.

Several pet-friendly bars — especially ones near dog parks and those with large outdoor spaces for brunch or beers — have even carved out a niche around the joyful rule-breaking.

In Park Slope, for example, hamburger joints, beer pubs and wine bars set dog dishes outside storefronts and give away bone-shaped puppy treats to show dogs are as much part of the neighborhood culture as kids.

Even so, the number of monthly tickets the city wrote in Brooklyn nearly tripled from June 2010 to July 2011. Overall, inspectors wrote approximately 470 “live animal violations” citywide during that period, although it’s unclear from records what types of pets that includes. About one-quarter of the total tickets were in Brooklyn neighborhoods, where dogs sometimes outnumber children.

That’s one reason why some bar owners say they will continue to invite pup owners to enjoy a beer with their best friend, despite sliding-scale fines that generally cost about $200.

“We’ll take the risk,” said Rauschenberg. “It’s something we value.”

This, however, may be going too far.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini