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Dining al Fresco With Fido

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s just a dog-friendly town.

While Caitlin and Gene Manner munched on sweet potato fries and salad on The Barley Room patio recently, two of their dinner companions loitered under the table.

Enjoying water and the occasional french fry passed from above, the pair appeared perfectly content. In fact, for these particular patrons, life couldn’t get much better.

“They just love this,” Caitlin said, referring to the Manners’ mutts, Sandy and Sierra, who stood near her feet and soaked up the patio scenery. “This is their bread and butter.”

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Gene was digging it too.

“It’s kind of like a dog park and a bar combined: (You’re) hanging out with your dogs, having fun and getting a beer,” he said.

Dogs abounded that night at The Barley Room, as the Animal Humane’s “Tail Date” club was having one of its monthly social gatherings to benefit homeless pets. But similar scenes are playing out on a smaller scale throughout Albuquerque. Whether in Nob Hill or the Northeast Heights, pet owners can find an eatery that allows four-legged guests in its outdoor seating area.

Good for business

Kelly’s Brew Pub owner Dennis Bonfantine – who believes he was among the first local restaurants to adopt the practice – is convinced it attracts more customers.

It’s “definitely good for business,” he said.

The patio at Kelly’s likely gets at least 100 dog visitors per week, he said. The Nob Hill establishment so values the leashed-and-collared crowd that it put dog food on the menu. (It arrives in disposable bowl so human diners know they’re not using the same dishes as dogs.)

Only once in 15 years has Bonfantine fielded a complaint: it came from a customer who “didn’t feel like he should have to sit next to someone with a dog” and who was subsequently offered a seat in the restaurant’s dog-free interior.

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The dogs haven’t wreaked much havoc either.

“There’s probably been times when the dogs barked at one another, but never any serious situations,” Bonfantine said.

Pet dishes

Owners of O’Niell’s Irish Pub also embrace man’s best friend. Having seen their Heights location become popular among dog owners, they recently expanded the patio at their Nob Hill pub to attract a similar crowd. The new addition incorporates a dog-watering station, leash tie-ups and a separate entrance.

“It’s really been a boon for our business,” co-owner Robert Munro said in July, shortly after the new patio opened. “Even before we were done, we had people lining up with their dogs, and we weren’t quite ready for them yet.”

Customers, he added, “love to come and socialize, and they hate to leave the dog at home.”

Flying Star is so fond of animal companions that it refers to its outdoor seating areas as “petios.” Accommodations include leash tie-ups, water bowls and bones. Its sister company, Satellite Coffee, also welcomes dogs on its patios.

“Dogs are family, and they like to go get coffee,” Flying Star’s marketing director Lindsay Hertz said in an email to explain the company’s philosophy.

The local cafe chain’s most popular “petios” probably see 12 pooches daily, with more on the weekends.

Good for people, too

“We believe that dogs increase social interaction among humans and increases business,” Hertz said.

Last year, Gov. Susana Martinez signed into law a bill that permitted New Mexico restaurants to allow dogs at designated outdoor dining spaces.

But, by that point, the practice was already commonplace at numerous Duke City eateries.

According to Joe Anguiano, a supervisor for the city of Albuquerque’s consumer health protection division, the city requires that pets remain outside the restaurant and prohibits them from eating off the same dishes as humans. Restaurants are also expected to post signs alerting customers that they allow pets. Servers who comes into contact with the animals must immediately wash their hands.

Despite the prevalence of pet-friendly patios, Anguiano said the department fields few complaints on the issue.

“If I had to make a wild guess about it, I’d say we probably only get two to three a summer,” Anguiano said.

The Barley Room has welcomed furry friends since it opened eight years ago, said Scott Bollinger, who owns the Northeast Heights pub with his wife. The practice reflects his own love of dogs but also his experiences traveling in Europe.

“You go to Germany – Munich – and it’s hard not to go into a place that doesn’t have a dog sitting there; it’s just tradition,” Bollinger said.

Charlie and Kathy Wendt, who attended Tail Date at The Barley Room, say they often dine out with Snickers, their stately 4-year-old Bernese Mountain dog. The Wendts, who own a gourmet dog treat company, say Snickers is part of their family and that her regular outings help make her “good with everyone,” from babies to other pooches.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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