CONCORD -- The Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar is preparing to welcome back doggy diners, now that state lawmakers have lifted the ban on pooches on outdoor dining patios.
The new law signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown, which takes effect Jan. 1, gives restaurant owners more latitude in allowing dogs on a leash or in a pet carrier on outdoor dining areas. The law is welcome news to the owners of the Lazy Dog, who earlier this summer ran afoul of the state's "no dogs allowed" policy.
Shortly after a customer in June reported finding dog hair on their food and plate at the popular eatery in the Willows Shopping Center, Contra Costa Health Services officials told the management dogs were no longer allowed on the outdoor dining patio.
"Everyone on the Lazy Dog team was pleased to hear about the new ruling that provides clarity for both dog owners and the general public about allowing dogs at restaurants," Lazy Dog CEO Chris Simms said in an email statement. "We look forward to welcoming guests and their pooches on our patios in accordance with health code regulations."
Currently, Health Services inspects every restaurant in the county several times per year and issues violations if dogs that aren't service animals are anywhere on the premises. Once the law goes into effect, the department will continue to investigate complaints of pet hair found in meals and other public health breaches related to dogs, said Marilyn Underwood, Contra Costa County environmental health director. Ensuring that the new policy works smoothly, she said, will require cooperation from pet owners and restaurateurs.
"(The law) does come with some responsibility on the part of the food facility operator to make sure their customers can be fed in a safe manner," Underwood said. "Customers don't want to have dog hair in their food; customers could be grossed out if a dog has an accident on a patio."
She also encouraged canine caretakers to practice good pet etiquette -- don't let your dog wander and pester other diners or servers; groom your pup at home so petting her doesn't create a cloud of hair; and feed and walk your dog before going to the restaurant to avoid appetite-ruining messes.
"I think it will be incumbent upon all of us as dog owners that we do the right thing when we take a dog to a patio," Underwood added.
Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, had won broad support for her bill from the restaurant industry, health officers and dog lovers.
"With Gov. Brown's signature, restaurateurs in California will see more businesses catering to their customers and the canine companions they love. I wish everyone 'bone-appétit,' " Yamada said in a statement.
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.