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Restaurant leads the pack on doggie dining

By PAUL SWIDER
Published September 13, 2006


[Times file photo]
People come to Moon Under Water on Beach Drive, for the curries, fish and chips, imported beers and British Colonial atmosphere. Dogs have come along for years, informally.

ST. PETERSBURG - Howls of delight may soon flow from what could be the first restaurant in the region with a permit to allow dogs to dine outdoors with their masters.

"People love to bring their dogs here," said Mark Logan, managing partner of Moon Under Water, which has applied for a city doggie dining permit.

Until recently, allowing canines was illegal but acceptable to customers, Logan said. He said his guests have brought dogs to the sidewalk cafe for years. A brush with the law made him seek a newly available city permit for a legal canine culinary experience.

Two weeks ago, Logan said, a customer asked to see his permit for allowing furry friends on the premises.

Logan had no such permit, as the Legislature allowed the practice just this year and the city passed a governing ordinance in July.

The customer called the police, who, Logan said, had better things to do. Still, Logan then became the first to apply for a dog dining permit. "You've got to do what you've got to do," he said.

St. Petersburg is one of only a handful of cities in the state that has considered a doggie dining ordinance, according to the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. Spokeswoman Cragin Mosteller said she's heard of no other restaurant actually applying for a permit for pooch presence.

St. Pete Beach passed an ordinance this year but has had no one apply for a permit. Tampa is considering an ordinance but hasn't passed one.

The Legislature passed the doggie dining bill as a three-year pilot program to legitimize a practice some restaurants have enjoyed for years. The bill gives local governments authority to allow doggie dining according to certain sanitation rules.

Dogs must be in outdoor areas only, on a leash and on the ground and can't be cleaning their masters' plates. Restaurant staffers must wash up if they touch a dog and must make sanitizer available to customers sitting in the designated dog destinations.

Logan said he hasn't had any complaints over the years and never had problems with customers feeding their dogs while at the restaurant.

He said he supplies water bowls for dogs but has no menu for them, though he has considered it.

The doggie dining permit is free to any inquiring restaurant. It requires a restaurant to diagram where dogs will be in relation to other diners.

The restaurant must also supply waste bags for dogs and must completely sanitize the area if there are any "accidents." Business owners must post the full doggie dining rules for all to see.

Logan said he doesn't mind jumping through hoops to get the permit.

Without it, the state's Department of Business and Professional Regulation could slap him with a fine of up to $1,000 per violation.

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com.

[Last modified September 13, 2006, 12:54:54]


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