Aldermen give nod to dog-friendly restaurants

The dog days could arrive this summer at Chicago restaurant patios, thanks to a new ordinance approved today by a City Council committee.

The measure would allow dogs to accompany owners on outdoor patios when the restaurant has purchased an additional city license. Dogs must have up-to-date vaccinations, although it's unclear whether bouncers will check for rabies tags.

Ald. Gene Schulter, who heads the committee, said the measure was timely because many restaurants already are allowing dogs on their patios, which violates current law.

The goal, he said, is to provide "a healthy, safe and clean environment for those people who after a long day of work would like to bring their dog out for a light dinner."

The city's Health Department initially opposed the concept, due to concern that dog droppings and food service are not a sanitary mix.

Steve Dale, host of "Steve Dale's Pet World," a nationally syndicated radio show covering all things pet related, addressed this concern during the public testimony portion of the hearing.

"Outdoor patios have been around for many years without requiring diapers on birds," he said.

Ald. Brendan Reilly, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said it will help to make Chicago a desirable tourist destination and also benefit residents.

"Most Chicagoans own dogs," he said.

Under the proposed ordinance, dogs will not be allowed on tables, seats or countertops. They cannot be fed on the patios.

The patio license will cost restaurant owners $125 a year. 

The full City Council will vote on the ordinance next week.