The New York City Department of Health Recently announced a new rule regulating the process of dining with dogs. The rule addresses the presence of companion (pet) dogs in outside dining areas such as patios and sidewalk cafés, which is optional, rather than the admission of service dogs, who are legally allowed to accompany their owners in all restaurant areas open to customers. 

While restaurants are not required to allow companion dogs to enter outdoor dining spaces, there are several guidelines that restaurants who do must follow In order to maintain compliance and avoid lowered inspection grades and fines of up to $350:

1. Companion dogs are required to enter outdoor dining areas from outside, and may not enter indoor dining areas. All food and drinks are to be prepared indoors, with the exception of drink refills from pitchers or other containers for guests dining outdoors. All utensils must be stored inside.

2. Restaurant staff is not allowed to play with or pet any dogs. If a staff member touches a dog, they are to wash their hands immediately. Staff members not responsible for food preparation are responsible for cleaning up after dogs within the outdoor dining area and are expected to do so immediately after an incident has occurred. If food or water are served to dogs, it is to be in single-use, disposable containers.

3. Dogs are not allowed on furniture in outdoor dining areas and are to be kept on the ground and out of the aisles. Dog owners should have control of their companions at all times and should keep their dogs within arm’s length either in a carrier or tied to a chair or table leg. Dogs are to have limited contact between people on the sidewalk, and outdoor dining areas next to sidewalks are to use barriers or some other method in order to limit dogs’ access to sidewalks.

4. If a dog is threatening, restaurants are required to ask that the customer remove their dog from the restaurant. If a customer refuses to remove their dog, the restaurant must stop serving them. If a dog bites or harms anyone, restaurants are to call 911 immediately.

5. Finally, every restaurant allowing companion dogs in outdoor dining areas is required to post, in English, a sign at the entrance to the outdoor dining area containing the following statements:

  • Companion dogs are only allowed in certain outdoor dining area(s) of this establishment. 
  • Only service dogs are allowed in other parts of this establishment. 
  • Your companion dog must be licensed and currently vaccinated against rabies to remain in the outdoor dining area with you. 
  • You are responsible for controlling your dog at all times.

Restaurants are responsible for the creation and display of their own signs.

Further, restaurants who choose to allow companion dogs in outdoor dining areas are allowed to create additional rules, such as those regulating the breed, size, and number of dogs allowed. Companion dogs can also be limited to certain parts of outdoor dining areas.