Dog ban on outdoor restaurant terraces in Evanston will be lifted

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EVANSTON, IL – City Council has unanimously approved an ordinance amending the city code to allow dogs on outdoor patios at restaurants in Evanston as of the end of next month.

Restaurant owners will have to request exemptions from the city’s ban on dogs or any other animal inside a public room, restaurant, store, office or grocery store – other than a “pet store”.

Ald. Clare Kelly, Ward 1, May 15, “with summer approaching and in the spirit of promoting economic development in any way we can downtown,” made a referral to the city’s social services committee to allow interested restaurants to allow mutts on terraces.

Kelly said at the time that contacts with the Illinois Department of Public Health, or IDPH, confirmed that Evanston did not need state permission to reach Chicago and other communities. that allow dogs in designated outdoor areas.

During the June 7 Social Services Committee public comment portion, resident Gretchen Brewster said she raised concerns about the city’s dog ban with Kelly during the board member earlier this year.

Brewster said her 7-year-old dog, Ivy, was a major source of mental health and companionship for her while living on her own amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Having the opportunity to have a meal together outdoors would have been such a relief, but the overbearing order saying ‘No dogs allowed’ barred that possibility,” Brewster told the committee.

“As a long-time Evanston taxpayer, I believe the use of our sidewalks is also mine and restaurant owners and patrons. Allowing dogs and other pet owners to frequent restaurants in the outdoors would be a joy for us and our companions and would bring additional income to our restaurants in town. What is there to lose? ”she said.“ By the way, I bet you my dog ​​Ivy is behaves better than 95% of current customers – certainly much calmer and more personable. “

During the committee’s discussion of the idea, Department of Health and Human Services director Ike Ogbo said city staff were unable to find municipalities in Illinois other than Chicago that allow dogs in outdoor patios by ordinance.

“So we did our research to find out why Chicago got this waiver. It turns out that there is a state law that allows companion dogs – that is, any dog ​​that is not a service dog – to be allowed in municipalities that have 1 million or more people, ”Ogbo said.

Ogbo said he spoke with a representative from the state’s public health department who said a waiver could be created to allow dogs. But he said he was unsure whether that could jeopardize future state grants or certifications.

“There is conflicting information here that we need information on, and I am still waiting for the state to get this in-depth assessment of the matter,” the health director said.

Kelly said she provided several sample ordinances showing how cities have dealt with dogs on patios, so Evanston didn’t need to start from scratch.

“We don’t really need to revise our health code. They are asking for waivers,” she said. “It’s like zoning, but for dogs.”

Evanston Ald. Clare Kelly, 1st Ward, led an effort to allow interested restaurants to allow dogs in designated parts of outdoor dining rooms, offering the measure within a week of taking office. The ordinance for an exception to the city’s dog ban was unanimously approved on Monday, but it remains to be seen when and how city health staff will officially allow dog-friendly patios in Evanston .

“Many cities have done this successfully,” Kelly added. “And again, they got it all right when it comes to the way they deal with dogs, barks, and dogs that aren’t friendly. “

Ald. Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, asked how the city might enforce the new rules and whether restaurateurs would be able to discriminate against certain breeds of dogs. He said it “gets really fishy” when restaurants can start to refuse service.

“What are the consequences when the cute little poodle barks or whatever, or a customer complains?” What will this protocol look like? Briathwaite asked. “Because, just like the beach problem, someone has to enforce that. Is a policeman coming? Is a fine being imposed?”

The Department of Health and Human Services was tasked with preparing an application for the restaurants, formulating the licensing process, and developing an enforcement policy.

Deputy city attorney Brian George told the committee meeting that it appeared the city had the power to grant an exception to state food code regulations banning dogs, and that the way the safest way to go would be to get IDPH approval and require waiver requests. .

In a subsequent memo on July 14, Ogbo and George told board members that the head of the food and dairy section of the IDPH said that whether or not the waiver would endanger state health department certification was still under review by state attorneys.

On Monday, the day the ordinance received final approval from city council, state officials confirmed that there would be no negative effects on the food safety review as long as the city implemented. implementing measures to mitigate potential risks to public health, according to staff.

“When you look at the public health issues related to the authorization of animals in restaurants, you can see that animals can carry diseases and cause allergic reactions in other customers,” Ogbo said in a report. memo before committee meeting. “Dogs also produce waste and can carry fleas, disturb the peace, attack, bark, or exhibit aggressive behavior. Additionally, allowing dogs in restaurants will create enforcement issues and time for staff to respond to requests. complaints from restaurant owners or customers who do not comply. “

The number of dogs allowed in a given establishment will be based on the size of the outdoor dining area.

Existing bans on animals in restaurants do not apply to police or service animals, security dogs or fish in aquariums.

According to Rebecca Wisch, associate editor of the Animal Legal and Historical Center at Michigan State University College of Law, 17 states have laws or administrative rules that allow restaurant patrons to bring pet dogs into open-air dining rooms. air.

One state has an outright ban on everyone except the restaurateurs themselves. In New Hampshire, restaurateurs can allow a “properly disciplined pet dog” inside their restaurants as long as it stays out of food preparation areas and is advertised with a prominent sign.

City of Evanston staff recommended that implementation of the order be delayed until August 27 to allow time to draft an application and a set of requirements.

Ogbo said the health ministry aims to have a restaurant waiver app before the ordinance goes into effect.

“My plan is to have the variance ready and online 2 weeks before the effective date,” he told Patch, “to give interested restaurateurs time to apply before the entry date. in force.”


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