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Pubs For Pups: Bars Will Be Allowed To Welcome Pets Under Ordinance Set For City Council Approval

Bar owners have complained that city health officials are ticketing their businesses because they allow dogs on the same premises as cocktail garnishes like lemons and limes.

Lo Rez Brewing/Archies Rockwell Tavern
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CITY HALL — City rules will allow dog owners to bring their companions into some Chicago bars under an ordinance that advanced out of a City Council committee on Monday.

The City Council Committee on License and Consumer Protection unanimously endorsed Ald. Brendan Reilly’s (42nd) proposal to narrow the city’s ban on non-service animals in businesses so that it only applies to “retail food establishments” as opposed to any “place where foodstuffs are sold or on display.” The upshot is that the ban would no longer apply to bars that don’t serve food. 

Bar owners have complained to Reilly that city health officials are ticketing their businesses because they allow dogs on the same premises as cocktail garnishes like lemons and limes, which can be defined as “foodstuffs” under city code. His proposal would “make sure that our tavern owners aren’t being ticketed for something they’ve been doing for some time,” Reilly said.

“There’s a very popular practice where customers are allowed to bring their dogs to sit on their outdoor patio space during the warm weather months, and it’s really been embraced by many of the neighborhoods in the city,” the Downtown alderman said. “So this simply is to clarify that as long as a tavern license isn’t serving food … it’s OK for them to allow their customers to bring their dogs in for a visit.”

He added that the provision “will not mandate dogs in taverns” but will empower bars owners to allow four-legged patrons if they want.

Pet-friendly bar owners have been rankled by sporadic visits from city inspectors who issue citations of up to $500 for violating the city’s health code, according to Pat Doerr, managing director of the Hospitality Business Association of Chicago.

“Alderman Reilly’s ordinance clears up a long time source of confusion over whether dogs are allowed indoors even when their spots don’t serve food,” Doerr wrote in a text message to The Daily Line. “A good day for Chicago’s dogs and the neighborhood taverns that welcome them.”

The committee had also been scheduled during its meeting on Monday to take up a separate ordinance sought by Reilly to ban pedicab drivers from playing loud music during overnight hours. But license committee chair Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) pocketed the item instead of bringing it to a vote.

A spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection wrote in a statement to The Daily Line on Monday that the department “is ready to work with the Alderman and looks forward to conversations with the pedicab industry.”

Finally, the committee referred to the City Council Committee on Committees and Rules a proposal by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) to tighten some regulations on crane operators in the city, including by requiring them to carry liability insurance. Aldermen re-routed the measure at Hopkins’ request.

Hopkins proposed the ordinance earlier this year at the request of the union IUOE Local 150, who argued it was “primarily a safety measure,” Hopkins told The Daily Line on Monday. But the alderman put the brakes on the proposal after other trade unions raised concerns about how much it could cost workers, he said. Hopkins opted to send the measure to the rules committee as a way to “park it somewhere” while he tries to strike a compromise and considers re-referring the measure to the zoning or workforce committee, he said.

Local licensing provisions 

The license committee also approved 13 hyperlocal licensing ordinances in wards around the city, including a proposal by Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) to allow city workers to boot cars in her ward. Booting is currently banned in Garza’s ward and 17 others.

Garza told committee members that she proposed allowing car booting as a way to fight back against “a lot of predatory towing companies in the 10th Ward that prey on our constituents.”

“I think this is very admirable way [to ensure that] if people are parked illegally, they will have a chance to rectify it without having to go to the tow company and pay tow fees,” Garza said.

Ward-level booting prohibitions last took the license committee spotlight in June, when Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) pushed through a prohibition on booting in his ward. He called for a citywide reassessment of booting rules, which he said lack a formal “appeals process” outside of drivers complaining to their ward offices.

Related: Aldermen call for citywide reform of ‘predatory’ car booting, delay home-sharing crackdown

The committee also voted to lift 11 local liquor moratoria to allow various new bars and liquor stores to open around the city.

All items advanced by the committee on Monday will face a final vote by the City Council during its meeting on Wednesday.

Get more in-depth, daily coverage of Chicago politics at The Daily Line.