Belleair Bluffs Latest to Consider Doggy Dining

BELLEAIR BLUFFS - Restaurants here — from casual breakfast spots to upscale steak houses — have long welcomed dogs to their outdoor dining areas, allowing them to stare longingly at people's food while their owners eat.
That's technically not legal, as Florida law prohibits dogs at restaurants, unless local governments create permit systems for restaurants that want to allow them. Now, the city is poised to join a number of Pinellas County governments that sanction “doggy dining.”
Dunedin, Clearwater and St. Petersburg have approved such measures, and Pinellas County followed suit in April, establishing a system for restaurants in unincorporated parts of the county. 
City Clerk Debra Sullivan introduced an ordinance last Monday, based on measures the county adopted. Belleair Bluffs city commissioners hope to hear from restaurateurs on the proposal during this week's meeting. They likely will revisit it at an Aug. 12 workshop and vote on it at a later meeting.
Commissioner Suzy Sofer, Bluffs Business Association treasurer and owner of Cody's Original Roadhouse, said she couldn't take advantage of the new ordinance because she has no outdoor seating area. Most local restaurants allow dogs outside, and it helps their business, she said. “I think that is one of the appeals that Belleair Bluffs has, that they tend to cater to the dog lovers,” she said.
Welcoming dogs has made the city's business district more welcoming, said Allen Edger, owner of Maggie Mae's on the Bluffs. “There are a lot of pet owners that love to spend a Saturday morning and come out and have breakfast and bring their dog,” he said. The only complaints Edgar has gotten were about noisy dogs.
“I would definitely pay a permit to allow dogs,” Edger said. “It definitely helps business.”
Mayor Chris Arbutine thinks the proposal has the commission's support. City leaders want to help the local economy, and allowing people to bring dogs to restaurants is part of the local culture. Prohibiting that could hurt business, he said.
Restaurant owners who want to allow dogs would be required to purchase permits and designate outdoor spaces for dogs. / Twitter: @saradrumm
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