BONITA SPRINGS — The doggy bag concept took on a whole new meaning during Wednesday’s Bonita Springs City Council meeting.
The council unanimously adopted an ordinance that will allow restaurants with outdoor seating to apply for permits that would let patrons bring their dogs to dinner.
The law reflects current practice at local outdoor establishments, council members agreed, but with a few new guidelines.
“We should have something about the disposal of doggy waste,” Councilwoman Martha Simons said. “Maybe add that waste should be wrapped in a Baggie and thrown in a Dumpster away from the service area. You want to avoid flies.”
Simons’ suggestion was added to the ordinance, which goes into effect in 30 days.
Although some diners might dislike eating in the presence of dogs, Councilman Steve McIntosh said some local restaurant patrons already bring their pets to dinner if the setting is appropriate.
“This is nothing more than allowing what is going on in practice anyway,” he said. “Restaurant owners assure me they’ll keep good tabs on this. They don’t want to lose business from either side.”
Simons added: “Actually this will be raising the level of sanitation. So this is better than what’s already going on.”
The ordinance requires food service employees to wash hands after touching a dog in the restaurant, and the restaurant must provide hand sanitizer on tables or at a fixed location near the dining area.
The dogs aren’t allowed indoors, and they must be kept on a leash, under control and off of chairs and tables.
In addition to wrapping dog waste in plastic bags, restaurants must keep a kit on hand for sanitizing areas where accidents occur.
Bonita Springs joins Naples and Cape Coral as Southwest Florida municipalities with ordinances allowing dogs to join their owners at eateries.
State law prohibits dogs at restaurants unless a local government specifically allows the practice.
Restaurant owners in Bonita Springs that want to welcome dogs will have to apply for a $50 permit.
Permits in Cape Coral cost $75, while restaurants catering to dogs in Naples pay a one-time $100 permit fee plus an annual $50 renewal fee.
Bonita Springs restaurants hoping to allow dogs also will have to obtain permission from the property owner, who can withdraw consent to the permit at any time by submitting a letter to the city.