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Health Dept. to Allow ‘Dog Friendly’ Outdoor Dining

Dog at a sidewalk cafe (photo via Arlington County)Sidewalk cafes in Arlington are going to the dogs.

Arlington’s Public Health Division has reversed course and will now allow restaurants to have “dog friendly” outdoor dining areas. As recently as November, the health department was reminding restaurants that no pets — except for service animals — were allowed in any dining area, inside or outside.

Now, restaurants can apply for a variance that would allow dogs in outdoor dining areas.

“Restaurants that wish to allow dogs in their outdoor dining areas now have an administrative process they can initiate to request a code variance,” Arlington’s Public Health Director, Reuben Varghese, said in a statement. “To receive a variance, a restaurant will have to comply with a set of safeguards designed to minimize risks to the dining public.”

“The change is in response to community requests,” the health department said in a press release. “With proper safeguards, restaurants can protect their customers’ health and safety in the presence of dogs.”

“Safeguards include requiring dogs to be leashed and not allowing them on seats and tables, restricting food and drink preparation from the outside dining area, and requiring signs to inform diners they are in a ‘Dog Friendly Area,'” said the press release. “Compliance would be evaluated as part of the routine restaurant inspection process.”

Photo via Arlington County

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