Restaurants not clamoring for doggy dining permit in Vero Beach

VERO BEACH – An ordinance allowing restaurant owners to offer dog-friendly dining had been hailed as a new tool to help attract customers during the economic downturn. But that tool does not appear to be one restaurants seem to be clamoring to get.

In the two weeks following the passage of the dog-friendly dining ordinance, only one restaurant has filled out the paperwork for the permit. None of the other dozen or so restaurants in the City of Vero Beach that have outdoor seating have picked up the paperwork, according to Vero Beach Planning and Development Director Tim McGarry. “We’ll just have to see,” McGarry said of the restaurants’ applying for the permit.

So far, the Greenhouse Café in Downtown Vero Beach is the sole restaurant going through the process to get a permit to make doggy dining official.

Olske Forbes, owner of the café, had led the charge to get the ordinance passed because Health Department officials continued to tell her she could not allow dogs in her outdoor seating area without such an ordinance.

“It does surprise me,” Forbes said of being the only restaurant owner to fill out the application. “I expected a half-dozen applications to come in.”

Forbes speculated that restaurant owners are merely trying to survive the next month until the season returns. However, she said that now would be a good time to go through the process to be ready when the seasonal residents return.

Survival was not the reason given for why Mulligan’s Restaurant and Bar would not be applying for a permit.

Owner George Hart said he has concerns about safety. When first asked about the possibility of filling out the paperwork, Hart said he had not given it any thought and that he was neither “for it or against it.”

“Some will love it,” Hart said of patrons who would support dog-friendly dining. “Some won’t care, and others will hate it.”

As Hart continued to talk, he realized that his biggest concern was the safety of the patrons, and in particularly the children.

“It only takes one,” Hart said, referring to a dog that becomes irritated and bites someone or another dog.

Safety is Hart’s biggest concern, he said.

The Planning and Development Department has 30 days from when Forbes filed her application to approve the permit – that could be as late as mid to late September.

“I’d like to do a party,” Forbes said, but she has to wait for the permit before allowing patrons to dine with their dogs. “It is the rule.”

The permit application is $175, McGarry said, with a $100-annual renewal. The city is currently working on signage for restaurants to display, noting they are permitted as dog-friendly.

Permits are reviewed and approved administratively and do not require a hearing before the Planning and Zoning Board. If an application were to be denied, the applicant could appeal to the board.

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