There is a very important vote coming up Tuesday at our City Commission meeting. Key West Commissioners will be voting on whether or not to adopt the Dixie Cup Clary Local Control Act (State Statute 509.233) which allows dogs in open air establishments if the city chooses to adopt the ordinance. This vote is important for a couple reasons. First, it would allow dog friendly establishments to maintain their canine-toting-customer business base. Second, passing the ordinance will protect our city’s image as the delightful quirky tourist destination. And most importantly, passing the ordinance will solidify an individual business’s right to make their own rules about their own particular establishment.
The state of Washington recently went through a similar debate over whether to welcome or ban Fido from bars and restaurants. An adviser from the Washington Department of Health argued that “Dogs can transmit diseases, they drool, shed and don’t use the toilet. These are potential issues around food.”
Funny–I could say the same about young children and some of our very best customers after a particularly successful happy hour. But the principle remains the same: Individual businesses should choose whether or not to allow dogs (or babies or incontinent drunken idiots) into their establishment.
Another argument against allowing dogs is the potential for canine-related injuries and lawsuits. Unfortunately there’s an entire genre of law practice that encompasses clumsy idiots suing businesses for big bucks. Remember the lady who sued MacDonald’s for millions (and won) because her coffee was hot and the cup didn’t bear a warning label? Well down in Key West we recently had our own victorious clumsy idiot lawsuit. Last month a jury awarded Bonnie Alayne Dunbar of Marlboro Massachusetts $18,000 for injuries sustained from tripping over a dog at Turtle Kraals several years ago. I could almost be ok with the verdict if Ms. Dunbar had been bitten or attacked by the dog but she was not. She tripped over it on her way to the restroom.
After MacDonald’s lost their hot coffee lawsuit, all cups of coffee from their franchises began bearing a large Caution label. Perhaps dog friendly establishments may enact warning labels of their own to ward off potential klutzes from canine tripping hazards. Maybe the staff could wear blaze orange vests with the words “WARNING: DOGS ON PREMISE. WATCH YOUR STEP!” Maybe the dog owners, not the businesses, should be the ones getting sued? Or maybe we could all just be responsible for our own actions?
One business in Charlotte, North Carolina has got this dog issue figured out. “The Dog Bar” requires pet owners to purchase a $10 annual doggie membership, provide proof of vaccinations and sign a doggie rules waiver. They welcome all types of well behaved dogs but ban all children under 18. Copy and Paste their site: dogbarnoda.com
In Key West, perhaps the most notable dog bar, The Schooner Wharf Bar, has been abiding by the recent ban on dogs in restaurants. Owners Paul and Evalena Worthington are gearing up for Tuesday’s Commission vote by asking supporters to write a letter in favor of the ordinance to the City Clerk at the following address: Csmith@keywestcity.com
If you support keeping the funkiness of dog friendly Key West and allowing businesses to make their own rules, write a letter in favor of passing Tuesday’s ordinance. And if you ever find yourself in Marlboro, Massachusetts and you run into Bonnie Alayne Dunbar, feel free to bark at her wildly.
(PHOTOS courtesy of Rob O’Neal and The Dog Bar website)