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Gone to the Dogs (and a Few Cats): Pet-friendly Establishments
Foodservice Monthly - October 2004


In France, it's not uncommon for a server to notice a furry face and floppy ears poking over the menu. In Paris, Lyons, and Nice, human diners regularly share restaurant space with Great Danes, teacup poodles and everything in between. Here in the States, laws are not that relaxed.

Local jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia and suburban Virginia and Maryland, restrict animals' access to dining establishments. Usually, pets may curl up on sidewalk seating with their owners, but entering the restaurant is a no- no-even en route to an outdoor patio.

Under federal law, restaurateurs are required to accommodate guide dogs and patrol dogs accompanying a police officer or security guard. In group residences such as nursing homes, pets are allowed in common dining areas at times OTHER than mealtimes.

"These days, pets are part of the family," says Ellen Gray, co-owner of Equinox restaurant and chair of last month's third annual Sugar and Champagne fundraiser for the Washington Humane Society that raised approximately $15,000. "People love the opportunity to share a relaxing and fun experience with their pets, who-in-turn become more socialized," she adds. "It's beneficial for dogs and people. You can take your dog along or leave him at home alone for three or four hours. Often the dog becomes bored and chews up things," Gray adds, as Equinox chef/co-owner Todd Gray feeds shrimp to Bomber, a toy poodle belonging to a regular alfresco customer. "In fact," says Ellen, the mother of 5-year-old Harrison, ,'most dogs are better behaved than some children."

Cats? No. "I adore cats-I have two cats and two dogs-but I've never seen a cat who enjoys car rides." Gray adds that in New York City, some restaurants allow felines inside at night to hunt mice.

Other restaurants welcoming pets outdoors include Creperie Cafe Bonaparte, 1522 Wisconsin Ave., NW, which provides water and com- plimentary bone-shaped buckwheat crepes weekend mornings; Dean & DeLuca, 3276 M Street, NW, which also sells dog biscuits; Martin's Tavern, 1264 Wisconsin Ave., NW; La Plaza, 629 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (Capitol Hill), WrapWorks, 1601 Connecticut Ave. NW (Dupont Circle), Luna Grill & Diner, Arlington (Shirlington Village). In Takoma Park, Md., the Savory Cafe welcomes "well behaved leashed dogs" at outdoor tables.

Moreover, many hotels are pet friendly these days. According to a survey published in Parade magazine, more than 10 million Americans took their pets on the road this past summer. Eighty percent were dogs, while only 15 percent of quadrupled travelers were felines. (Again, most cats don't travel well!) The remainder included other species; we're not sure what.

Smart hoteliers respond with perks for their four-legged guests. In accordance with local regulations, pets are allowed in hotel lobbies and guest rooms, but not in the dining area. Again, service animals are excepted. At the Fairmont Hotel Washington, dogs are greeted with healthy treats, bottled water, a place mat and bowl, and the ever- essential plastic bag for picking up after their pets. A special "dog park" is located right outside for this purpose. The Fairmont's complimentary pet program also includes walking maps to nearby parks, loaner collars and leashes, and a list of nearby pet-friendly cafes and shops. Moreover, every time a canine companion stays at the hotel, 5 percent of the room rate goes to Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Harrison Gray, son of Todd & Ellen Gray of Equinox, with his dogs.
"So many people travel with their dogs, even business people," says Fairmont public relations representative Diana Bulger. "It relieves their stress. After a long day of meetings, travelers relax when they see their pets. We have one frequent traveler who goes nowhere without Ben, her Cavalier King Charles spaniel. We also have 'empty nesters,' couples whose children are grown," Bulger adds. "Their new 'children' are their pets." A self-professed animal lover, Diana and husband Tom took their two "terrible terriers" Maggie and Dodger, on their vacation to the Outer Banks. Years ago, Diana traveled with her cat, Barkley, and his litter box.

Likewise, the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown provides each pet with a keepsake collar that reads "Property of the Ritz-Carlton" along with dog bones, comfy dog bed and a water bowl.

Four Seasons Hotel, also in Georgetown, accepts dogs 15 pounds and less, and provides homemade dog biscuits and bottled water, along with bowls and a doggie bed. The hotel will even make beef patty birthday cakes and arrange for pet sitters.

Across the river in Arlington, Potomac Suites Rosslyn provides treats, special pet areas, maps to park and local trails, a list of important phone numbers, such as veterinarians, emergency clinic, groomers, and pet stores.

Other pet-friendly hotels include the Hay-Adams ( Lafayette Square); Loews L'Enfant Plaza in Southwest, St. Regis Washington, and the Willard Inter-Continental.

Advice to restauranteurs and hoteliers? Obviously, it's essential to know and follow local health regulations. Needless to say, patrons' pets should not be allowed to run loose. Then - roll with it! Have bowls of fresh water on hand, and maybe a tidbit of steak or shrimp. You want Fido's "person" to remain a loyal customer!

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