Pooches are now allowed on patios in Nova Scotia

·3 min read
The head of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia says allowing dogs on patios could lead to more sales because customers will linger longer.  (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC - image credit)
The head of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia says allowing dogs on patios could lead to more sales because customers will linger longer. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotians can now bring their dogs along when they grab a bite or drink on a patio.

The province announced Tuesday that restaurant, bar and cafe patios will now be pooch-friendly, although it's still up to the discretion of individual businesses.

It's a way to encourage more Nova Scotians to dine outside and support restaurants and bars that have been struggling during the pandemic, the province said.

"We've listened to the restaurant industry. They told us this change will help them attract more dog owners who want to enjoy a leisurely meal or a beverage and be able to do so without having to leave their dogs at home," Premier Iain Rankin said in a news release.

Dogs that were not service animals were previously banned from eating establishments under Nova Scotia's food safety regulations, and restaurants could face steep fines if they were charged.

It led the owners of a Dartmouth taproom to launch a petition in 2019 urging the province to permit all dogs.

The Stubborn Goat Beer Garden on the Halifax waterfront supported the petition, and owner Geir Simensen said he's excited about the new rules.

Simensen said he often had to tell customers walking with their dogs along the waterfront that they couldn't sit down with their pet.

Geir Simensen, left, and Kyle Drake are two of the owners of Stubborn Goat Beer Garden.
Geir Simensen, left, and Kyle Drake are two of the owners of Stubborn Goat Beer Garden.(Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

"We're in the hospitality business. We're not in the business of annoying our guests … so we're very happy with this," he told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon on Tuesday.

For the most part, dog owners are respectful and dogs are well trained, Simensen said.

"We can't create an environment where, you know, the dogs are overrunning the patios and there's no control," he said. "Just like we expect our guests to behave a certain way, now our dog guests will have to behave a certain way as well."

The province said there are no changes to the rules for guide dogs certified under the Nova Scotia Service Dogs Act. They are allowed on patios and inside restaurants.

Businesses must follow guidelines

Businesses can still decide whether or not to allow dogs on their patios.

They will also have the final say over how many animals are allowed at one time, and can ask a customer to remove their pet if it's misbehaving.

The province said restaurants, bars and cafes must also follow strict food safety guidelines:

  • Dogs aren't allowed inside restaurants and can only be on patios that can be accessed from the street.

  • Dogs can't eat at the restaurant, but are allowed to drink water, as long as the dish is brought by the owner.

  • Restaurants with dog-friendly patios must post a sign so potential customers are aware they'll be dining alongside dogs.

Simensen, who also runs the Stubborn Goat Gastropub and Antojo Tacos in downtown Halifax, doesn't expect there to be any issues with food safety.

"There are certainly no dogs in our kitchens or in our food prep areas or anything like that, so I don't really see an opportunity for that to be a concern," he said. "Obviously dogs are not allowed on chairs, they're not allowed on top of the tables."

He said the beer garden may consider having a dog-free zone for customers who are afraid of dogs or don't want to sit near one.

The executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia said the change is good news for customers and business owners alike.

"Our research shows that restaurants that allow dogs see a five per cent increase in sales," Gordon Stewart said in the government release. "Many dog owners are more likely to linger on their favourite patio, and order food or another beverage, if their dog can stay with them."

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