Last week, the New York state legislature passed a bill that, if signed into law, would allow dogs to hang out with their owners at eateries. To discuss the pros and cons of dining canines, Brendan invited Greg Morabito, editor at food website Eater and co-host of the site’s podcast “The Eater Upsell,” to join him at a Brooklyn restaurant that would be affected by the law.
Greg Morabito: There are a lot of rules related to dining, and a lot of reasons why restaurants can get fined. I guess this is one of the ways they could get fined, and it could potentially hurt restauranteurs, so I think this is actually helping them out a little bit and making it a little more lenient.
They have so much pressure on them from all these state and city organizations. There are so many rules. It’s almost impossible to keep track of them, and even some of them are so arcane and outdated that they just don’t make sense anymore. I think this is a way to help them out.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. Well, that is one reason they are getting rid of the dog ban. Why was the dog ban in effect in the first place?
Greg Morabito: I think it’s a sanitation issue, that you’re not really supposed to have animals around where you are serving food. I guess that must be the only reason.
You still will never be able to bring a dog inside where they are serving food unless it’s a service dog. I’m assuming they made it open and lax, this rule, because if you’re sitting outside, in a cafe, a dog might just walk by you. That is basically the same thing as having a dog right next to you. Restaurants are not preparing food outside, usually.
I think that the rule existed in the first place because, if you’re going in a restaurant, you’re closer to the kitchen, it’s closer to where they are preparing the food or making the drinks. Dander or whatever germs or dog bacteria could get on the inside of the restaurant.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, but there’s a difference between someone walking by and smoking a cigarette, than someone sitting next to you smoking a cigarette. As someone who has allergies, having a dog immediately next to you will induce sneezing, as opposed to just having a dog walk by. There’s a difference.
Greg Morabito: I believe that, as part of this new bill, it’s passage is probably going to be passed. Restaurants and restaurateurs will get to choose A: whether they actually want to allow dogs outside, B: if they want to allow them in certain areas. Basically, what rules they want to set up.
I’m sure that smart business owners, they have this dog rule, they’ll say, “OK, well, there’s a corner here.” Because, some people don’t want to be around dogs when they’re eating. I’m actually one of those people, and that’s because I get kind of nervous when I’m around dogs, especially small ones. You have to pay attention to them. They’re moving around all the time and they’re really fragile.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Beyond the sanitation aspect, having animals on leashes, bopping around, sniffing food, possibly fighting amongst themselves, can create a really unpleasant atmosphere.
Greg Morabito: Dogs also take up a lot of space. They’re unpredictable. If you’re taking a jog down the street and somebody has a dog on a leash, they’re taking up maybe six more feet of space. You have to constantly be aware of them. You don’t want to hurt them. That’s one potential sort of downfall that I see, in my eyes, as a diner, is that I don’t want to constantly be aware of everybody’s dogs.
It’s different with kids, you know what I mean? It’s another human being, and the parents are really careful about that. But sometimes, dog owners just let them do whatever they want, you know?
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, your website wrote a piece about cat owners who are complaining that the law is unfair because it discriminates against cats. Only dogs are now allowed.
Greg Morabito: I think it is unfair to discriminate cats. The thing is, very few people take their cats outside of their apartments or houses. Sometimes, you do see cats on leashes. I know there’s one guy in my neighborhood that walks his cat every day. I think that maybe they excluded cats because it’s an extra bit of legislation, an extra bit of language that kind of junked up the bill and maybe made it a little bit harder to push it through.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I want to point out one other part of this bill. Part of it forbids “communal pet drinking bowls,” which means that if a dog wants water, a restaurant will have to provide it its own bowl. That was put in there to prevent, I’m guessing, chaos between dogs, splashing, which says to me that the people who support this bill know in their hearts that this is going to be messy. You’re bringing animals to an eating establishment.
Greg Morabito: Yeah. See, I would think that a lot of restauranteurs, from an operational standpoint, because it’s that specific, that they have to have the individual dishes, I think a lot of them would just say it’s not worth it. It’s going to be too much extra work. “Are we really going to see a bump? Are our customers really going to love our restaurant that much more if we allow that?”
Brendan Francis Newnam: You’re thinking the market is going to take care of this one way or another.
Greg Morabito: Yeah, I think so, definitely. And, I was thinking that somebody who is not asthmatic, what is the scenario in which I would be totally chill and cool to have dogs around.
I think that maybe a good rule might be only during brunch, because brunch is chaos anyway. It’s just a free-for-all where people do what they want. Some people eat a nice meal. Some people get wasted on mimosas. Some people just sit with an empty cup and talk to their friends for hours. I think that dogs could fit into that milieu very easily.
Brendan Francis Newnam: I’m anti-brunch for many of the reasons you mentioned. It’s a free-for-all, it’s bedlam. People drinking too much, spending too much money, fighting in line. Maybe, let’s leave that to the dogs.
[Ed note 11/27: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill. So restaurants can now allow patrons to bring their dogs to certain outdoor dining areas.]