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Janesville tavern patios going dog friendly?

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Neil Johnson
September 2, 2014

JANESVILLE—Janesville tavern and restaurant patrons who like to dine and drink outdoors could soon notice something shaggy staring up at them from the decks and patios at their favorite haunts.

The Janesville Alcohol License Advisory Committee on Tuesday approved a new rule that will allow Janesville dining and tavern owners the latitude to decide whether patrons can take their dogs into outside seating areas. They would have to enter through the patio door.

The move comes amid state rules approved earlier this year by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services that allow restaurants and taverns to file for a variance to allow dogs in their outdoor seating areas.

Mick Gilbertson, owner of Janesville restaurant and events center at 10 S. High St. in downtown Janesville, had pushed for the city to make it easier for establishments that seek state variances to invite dog owners onto their patios.

“We're wanting to go to a flavor that's a little more urban-friendly in downtown Janesville,” he said. “People can walk in and have dinner and not have to worry about their dogs.”  

The alcohol committee's move Tuesday came after a recommendation by Gale Price, city building and development services manager. It cleared a local hurdle in the way of the state variance: City policy is that all patrons must enter restaurant or tavern patios from an establishment's main entrance, not through a patio gate.

Officials said that rule was put in place to prevent underage people from having easy access to alcohol.

Under state rules, patrons could not take dogs in the front entrances of establishments or have them inside unless the dogs are certified service animals. Employees would not be allowed to prepare food or drinks in areas where dogs are present.

Under state rules, dogs would have to stay off seats, and dog owners would only be allowed to feed dogs pet food and water from throwaway containers. Businesses would be responsible for cleaning up after dogs.

The alcohol committee also imposed a leash requirement. Also, certain outdoor functions, such as the downtown farmers market, could continue banning dogs. 

Gilbertson said The Armory doesn't have a state variance in hand yet, and it's still working out rules it could impose, such as exclusion of certain dog breeds or weight limits for dogs.

“We could limit dogs on the patios to certain nights or hours, too,” he said.

Gilbertson and Price acknowledged there could be confusion over which of Janesville's restaurants or bars allow dogs. 

Price said that could mean taverns that don't choose to be dog friendly would want to post “No Dogs” signs on their patio gates.



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