Dog walks into a bar — and North Carolina brewpub owners are delighted

News
  • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper this week signed a law that overturns a previous restriction that had barred customers from bringing their dogs into breweries and their taprooms.
  • The new law lets canines enter a brewery as long as the establishment doesn’t prepare food on the premises.
  • A craft-beer boom in the state has turned brewpubs into a multibillion-dollar industry.

Breweries are going to the dogs across North Carolina, and owners of the drinking establishments couldn’t be happier about it. Starting in September, pets will be allowed back in breweries in the state thanks to a law signed this week by Gov. Roy Cooper.

“As taproom owners, we want to see people walking their dogs after work stop in and have a pint,” John Szymankiewicz, an attorney at the Raleigh-based Beer Law Center, which represents craft breweries, told CBS MoneyWatch. “This has been more or less a grassroots issue for breweries, taprooms and small businesses across the state.”

“For somewhere that’s a community gathering point, to not let people bring their pets, it can be a competitive disadvantage,” he added.

The new law will allow dogs and cats inside as long as a brewery doesn’t prepare food on the premises. A previous statute had classified beer as food, subjecting brewers to different rules than wineries and causing confusion given that enforcement varied from town to town.

“As you made your way around the state, some areas enforced it diligently and others do not,” Rich Greene, executive director of the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, said of the rule banning animals from being near where food is made.

Nationwide, whether pets can join their humans in breweries varies state by state and town by town. Colorado, for instance, allows dogs in the customer-seating areas of breweries and other establishments not required to hold a retail food license. But Denver, unlike the rest of the state, maintains its own health code, which classifies beverages including beer as food. Translation? Only service dogs are allowed inside Denver restaurants and breweries. Canines otherwise must be leashed and remain in outside areas like a patio.

Inviting “best friends”

After a visit from the Charlotte Health Department in late 2016, Three Spirits Brewery told patrons in a post on social media that it could no longer allow dogs in the taproom of its brewery, only on the patio. “We have been dog-friendly since we opened, and if we felt there was a way to keep things the way they are, we would.”

But some brewpubs refused to heel. Dingo Dog Brewing Co., which operates outside of Carrboro, North Carolina, and donates its profits to no-kill animal rescue groups in the state, urged patrons in February to sign a petition objecting to the no-dogs rule.

After being cited for breaking the law, one dog-loving brewery company, Joymongers, toldcustomers earlier this year that it was working with a local lawmaker on finding a fix to “allow our ‘best friends’ in brewery taprooms.” The effort was being made “for all of the millions of North Carolina dog lovers and hundreds of North Carolina craft breweries,” stated the company, which has locations in Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

The new law is a relief for breweries that had found themselves having to turn away dogs after regulators began enforcing rules against breweries letting canines inside.

“It was really hard telling people, ‘No, you can’t bring your dogs, when we approve of that, especially since we do not serve food,” Suzie Ford, owner of NoDa Brewing Co. in Charlotte, told the Charlotte Observer. Ford’s brewery plans to celebrate the new law on Sept. 1, telling Twitter followers to “stay tuned for pawty details.”

Chris Harker, founder of Triple C Brewing Co. in Charlotte, told WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte, that his brewery is pleased with the new law. “Triple C is a community gathering spot and there’s lots of dogs in our community, so we’ll welcome them back,” said Harker, whose business sells dog collars with its logo on them, leashes and frozen dog treats.

“We were very involved in the effort — our members wanted to get this issue raised,” said Greene of the Brewers Guild. “We’re happy,” he added, noting the law lets local taprooms decide if they want to let dogs join their human owners inside their establishments.

As of 2016, North Carolina’s more than 200 breweries made a total economic contribution of $2.3 billion, said Greene, citing state data. “We’re talking about small breweries in towns like Hickory — our industry is helping revitalize small-town downtowns.”

“North Carolina has been fortunate enough to be on the forefront of the craft-beer boom,” said Szymankiewicz, who noted only a handful of breweries were running in the state before it raised its alcohol by volume limit on beer in 2005. “It helped us through the Great Recession.”

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