PALM HARBOR, Fla. - "I won't go to restaurants that won't allow me to have my dog," said Sherry Bickers as she sat on a patio at a Dunedin restaurant.
Bickers likes to dine out with her dog, Sugar Baby. But if she came to Fairway Pizza and Sports Pub in Palm Harbor, things would be different.
"People were coming up and we said, 'I'm sorry, you can't have your dog here'," recalled owner Steve Jefferis.
Jefferis says his outdoor deck is the perfect place for pet owners to bring their dogs while they enjoy a meal or drink. But Palm Harbor is in unincorporated Pinellas County, where there is no such allowance for doggy dining. But Pinellas Commissioners appear ready to change that.
"I think it's just a formality. We've been asked for quite some time," said Commissioner Susan Latvala.
There are nine municipalities within Pinellas County that currently allow outdoor dining for dogs and their owners. Terry and Janet Lamar think Pinellas County is making the right move. They, along with their dog Dixie, are visiting Dunedin on vacation and say doggy dining is a real selling point for the area.
"Actually it's very important because when we go on vacation, so many times we have a hard time finding a place that will allow the dog. We don't really feel comfortable leaving her at home, so it's very important to us," siad Lamar.
Owners like Steve Jefferis will have to pay a fee for a permit to allow dogs. The ordinance would require the dog to stay leashed and that doggy-dining would only be permitted outdoors. Signs would also be required to inform customers that dogs are welcome.
"It increases our business, I know. And it makes people with dogs more comfortable," said Jefferis
Commissioners will discuss doggy-dining tonight, then take a final vote Tuesday, April 9.