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Friday, July 18, 2014

Policy banning pets from Nashua restaurants with outdoor seating has some barking mad

NASHUA – Dog owners should keep their furry friend at home if they hope to get a bite to eat at any downtown restaurants with outdoor seating this summer.

A letter sent to eateries with sidewalk seating by the city health department reminded owners that dogs can’t accompany their owners in outside seating areas. ...

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NASHUA – Dog owners should keep their furry friend at home if they hope to get a bite to eat at any downtown restaurants with outdoor seating this summer.

A letter sent to eateries with sidewalk seating by the city health department reminded owners that dogs can’t accompany their owners in outside seating areas.

The letter has one restaurant owner growling over the restriction.

“We love the dogs. I’ve never had a problem with them,” said City Room Cafe owner Terry Wade. “It’s usually fine because people who do come treat their dogs as children. It feels funny to say you can’t allow them.”

Wade said she understands it’s against the health regulations, but doesn’t want to have to tell customers to put their dogs in the car.

“I understand, but I don’t agree. I think it should be our choice whether we allow it or not,” she said.

Citing food safety regulations, the Nashua Environmental Health Department issued a letter July 2 spelling out the city policy banning pets (and smoking) in outdoor eating areas.

City Health Officer Heidi Peek explained in the letter that outdoor and indoor dining areas are guided by the same regulations.

“Patrons may wish to bring their pet to the table while they dine outside, yet … this area is still considered a part of the establishment,” Peak said, adding the regulations also cover cats, snakes, rabbits, birds, etc. “The only exemptions to this regulation are service animals.”

Wade said they have a lot of customers who bring their dogs with them to eat.

“People assume because they’re at outdoor tables, that it’s OK to have their dogs with them,” Wade said.

Nashua resident Jessica Corwin said she isn’t concerned with pets in outdoor dining areas.

“As long as the owner is keeping an eye on their dog and cleaning up after them, I don’t see a problem,” Corwin said.

Corwin owns a dog and said she’s concerned that the pet ban may create a “slippery slope” toward banning dogs at picnic areas in parks as well.

Peek said she issued the letter because she had attended a planning meeting for one of the city’s outdoor events when a restaurant manager said how handy past health department notices had been in enforcing regulations with patrons.

“We sent out letters to everyone who has outdoor eating just as a reminder,” Peek said.

Peek also explained why animals are banned.

“The presence of animals in a facility can result in a number of different food and personal safety issues. By preventing animals from entering any area of your establishment, you are helping to prevent patron illness and food contamination.”

Wade posted a notice on the cafe’s Facebook page last week asking patrons to refrain from bringing pets to the eating area unless it’s a service animal.

“Nashua has become the most dog UN-friendly town in New England. We vacation in Maine all the time and our well-behaved dog is always allowed in outdoor eating and drinking establishments. Other towns put out water bowls for dogs. Nashua, my home, is ridiculous. I would rather they put restrictions on ill-behaved children,” Patricia McMullen wrote.

Outside of Nashua, Wade said she’s seen restaurants mix outdoor dining with dogs.

“I see it all over the place in other towns … one restaurant even has a ‘doggie menu.’ ”

In the meantime, she said The City Room Cafe will follow the rules set by the city health inspectors.

“We have to coexist,” she said.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402 or tforbes@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Forbes on Twitter (@Telegraph_TinaF).