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Tag: the dog bar

Dog walks into a bar

acebar


Our forefathers may have overlooked listing it in the Constitution, but I’d rank it up there with free speech, religious freedom and the right to bear arms… maybe even above the right to bear arms:

It’s the right to get a beer at a bar with your dog — one of life’s true pleasures, assuming you love beer and love dogs (and assuming it’s cool with the bar owner).

SONY DSCI’ve always felt, and often written, that allowing dogs into a drinking establishment — especially one that doesn’t serve food — is a decision that should be left up to individual tavern operators.

Local health departments, often, don’t see it that way, as was recently the case in New York City, where The Gate, a tavern in Park Slope, was told it can no longer allow patrons to come in with their dogs.

The city Department of Health based their order on a law prohibiting any live animal from being in a food service establishment.

The Gate is not a restaurant, but, under the law, beer, wine, booze and ice are considered foods.

Silly? Yes.

Unconstitutional? Should be, I say, tongue not entirely in cheek.

All 50 states allow residents to carry concealed guns outside their homes. Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, and Ohio have laws specifically allowing guns in bars. Bar patrons in South Carolina and North Carolina also aren’t required to disarm when entering a bar.

Twenty states, including New York and New Jersey, do not address the question of guns in bars at all.

It makes me uncomfortable, living in a world (and a state) where guns have more rights, privileges and protections than dogs.

And it gives me pause (not paws, for that would be a pun), that local health departments can get so worked up about a hound sleeping on a bar floor when Ebola is at our doorstep. Don’t they have more important things to do?

But back to The Gate.

After the health department laid down the law at the corner of 5th Avenue and 3rd Street, management posted a sign on the door of the tavern, saying, “with apologies to our furry friends,” dogs could no longer be allowed.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn pet owners have started a petition on the website Park Slope for Pets (see the upper right corner of that page) asking the Health Department to “allow dogs at The Gate” and reclassify bars that don’t serve food. As of this morning, nearly 600 signatures had been collected.

“We support The Gate’s dog-friendly status in the neighborhood as well as all other non-food drinking establishments that welcome dogs,” the petition’s sponsors say. “We are not looking for an exception for The Gate but rather a revision to the statute with regard to all non-food drinking establishments.”

SONY DSCI hold an even more radical stance. I’m for letting well-behaved dogs into places that do serve food, and even inside, as opposed to the patio (given it’s OK with the owner).

I’m more concerned with what’s going on unseen in the kitchen than the possibility of evil germs hopping off a dog and onto my plate of mozzarella sticks.

If its OK for service dogs to go inside restaurants, it should be OK for all well-socialized dogs — because all dogs, in a way, are service dogs.

My dog Ace, a one-time therapy dog who now counsels only me (and at a very reasonable fee) grew up spending some time (but not an inordinate amount of time) at a neighborhood bar in Baltimore I patronized.

I like to think he added to the bar’s character, and warmth, and friendliness, and vice versa. Admittedly, he also served as a social crutch for me, making conversations easier to start, making me more comfortable, keeping me from getting too tongue tied.

Just as dogs need to be socialized, so do we. And dogs and bars — independently and especially in combination — can help those of us who have difficulty in that area achieve that.

Dogs in bars lead to more social dogs, and more social people. (With the exception of those humans who are aghast by the prospect of a dog in a bar or restaurant and feel the need to file an official complaint, as opposed to just avoiding the establishment.)

“One of my favorite parts about going to The Gate was that I could enjoy a quiet night out without the lingering guilt of knowing my dog was waiting for me at home,” one dog owner told Park Slope Stoop. “… It’s disappointing that they are losing part of their character because of the DOH’s overreach in enforcing the Health Law.”

thegateWhile the city health department is barking out orders, the proprietor of The Gate, we’re pleased to read, isn’t just going to roll over.

The Gate’s owner, Bobby Gagnon, reportedly plans to fight the health department edict when he appears before the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings on Nov. 18 — not so much to be granted an exception as to clarify the law.

Dog owners need to push back from time to time, as opposed to just letting themselves be pushed around. I think that happens because dog owners are generally calm, easy-going, reasonable, level-headed people (thanks, at least in part, to their dogs), and because they realize having a dog — whether it’s a right or not — is truly a privilege.

Maybe if dog owners got political, played dirty, sported bumper stickers and insisted on exercising the right to have a Bud with their bud, we could resolve the problem, short of a Constitutional amendment.

Maybe if dog owners could be as strident and overbearing as gun lobbyists, they could enjoy more freedoms with their dogs.

Maybe, when authorities come to take our dogs out of a bar in which he or she is otherwise welcome, we should say, “Sure, you can take my dog out of this establishment … when you pry the leash out of my cold dead fingers.”

Maybe someday the Supreme Court will address the burning questions: Is ice food? And even if so, do we have a right to walk into a bar with our dog?

I’m sure critics will say it’s frivolous of me to compare taking your terrier to a tavern with our right to tote firearms, or our Constitutionally granted freedoms of religion and speech.

But are they really that different?

My dog protects me, like a gun. My dog nourishes and consoles me, like a religion. And he frees up my speech better than the First Amendment ever did.

(Photos: Ace and his friend Stringer at a Recreation Billiards, a dog friendly bar in Winston-Salem, Ace at The Dog Bar in Charlotte, and a Great Dane at The Dog Bar, by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; sign outside The Gate in New York, from Park Slope Stoop)

We all need somebody to lean on


Among the dogs we met in Charlotte during our visit to The Dog Bar, were Skyler and Pierce, two white Great Danes who — one being half blind, one being deaf, neither having the distinct black markings harlequin Great Danes are supposed to have — were headed to the kind of future “defective” dogs often face.

Namely, no future at all.

They were part of a larger litter that turned out to be unprofitable. All the pups were affected by a strain of distemper — but because of their additional handicaps, Skyler and Pierce, the breeder decided, couldn’t even be given away, and therefore should be put down.

That’s when Laura Moss and Fred Metzler stepped in. Laura was working at an animal emergency clinic at the time. The litter of Great Danes ended up there. She already had three dogs at home, so she asked Fred, her friend of several years, to adopt the two future-less siblings.

Fred, a sales manager for a company that makes automatic doors, agreed. But, because he traveled a lot, he often called upon Laura to pet sit the duo — Skyler, the deaf one, and Pierce, the blind one — when he was out of town.

At Fred’s house, Laura noticed, the two pups — as they did at the hospital — continued to stay at each others’ sides. When they went to sleep, Skyler would lay her head on top of Pierce.

“That way, if he hears something, he’ll react. Then she’ll be the police dog and go check it out. They’ve been that way since they were babies,” Laura said. “There’s no way we could separate them.”

Skyler, named for her sky blue eyes, is 106 pounds; Pierce, named, for his handsomeness, after actor Pierce Brosnan, is 175 pounds. Despite their handicaps, they manage, with help from each other, to do all that dogs do.

Fred and Laura have come up with a system of sign language to communicate with Skyler, including more than 20 commands. The two dogs have become a striking and familiar sight in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood. They even march in the local St. Patrick’s Day parade.

And they get along fine with Laura’s other dogs — a miniature pinscher named Jade, a Boston terrier named Halley and a dalmatian named Dax, who she also brought home from the animal hospital. His former owner dropped him off and, once learning he had heartworm, never picked him up.

Since she talked him into adopting the dogs, Laura and Fred have become a couple, and now share a residence with all five of their dogs.

Laura doesn’t give the Great Danes full credit for bringing two humans together — but maybe, on some level, the relationship between the two big white dogs represents a lesson to be learned: Having someone in your life you can turn to, and depend on, and whose strengths can compliment your weaknesses, has its advantages.

Or maybe that’s reading too much into it.

“The friendship is what brought us together,” Laura says, “but the Great Danes didn’t hurt.”

Old dogs, new tricks, good times

How could you not love a guy whose last name ends with “mutt?”

How could you not be smitten with a man with the mug of a pug, the work ethic of a sled dog; the insatiable curiosity of a boxer; and the droopy demeanor of a basset hound?

If you were to mix Yogi Bear with Rocky Balboa, then southern fry them, you’d have David Perlmutt, in whose house Ace and I spent the last three days. He’s one of those guys who underwhelms you (to borrow a friend’s description) on first impression. (I, too, am a member of that club.) He’s very low key, quite soft spoken, and doesn’t feel the need to publicly exhibit vast amounts of enthusiasm, which is not to say he doesn’t have it. It’s in there, percolating. But being perky is not his thing. He’s not exactly Mr. Bubbly.

In that way, and a few others, we are peas in a pod. We both graduated, the same year, from the University of North Carolina’s journalism school – though we don’t think we knew each other back then. We both worked at the Charlotte Observer, though in my case just for a year. He’s been there nearly 30.

We’re both divorced (though in my case twice) and we both have only children headed off to college this month.

We’ve both written books – he one called “Charlie Two Shoes” that may be on its way to becoming a movie; me a soon-to-be-released one called “Dog, Inc.

We’re both disheartened by what’s happened to newspapers in the past decade or more, and worry about their future, but he has hung in, while I – for the time being, anyway — abandoned that ship.

And we’re both plum dog crazy.

(And no, I’m not proposing. He has already turned me down.)

But he did invite Ace and me to be guests in his lovely home among towering trees in a quiet Charlotte neighborhood that’s filled with dogs. His two, Caki and Clancy, were at the home of his ex (with whom he shares custody of the canines) so I didn’t get a chance to meet them.

But I did get a chance to meet his neighbor’s dog, a  golden retriever mix named Winnie, who consented to show me her trademark trick, opening, then closing, the Archer family’s front door.

She performed it flawlessly three times in a row, because that’s how many tries it took for me to get a decent photo. (Perhaps I should train Ace to take pictures and let him handle the photography from now on.)

Winnie, who’s three-years-old, is assisted in the task by a rubber band, wrapped around the door knob (one of those regular round door knobs), which allows her front paws to get some traction, and twist the knob. Then she pushes the door open, walks inside, turns around, closes it with a flick of her front paws and beams proudly.

“She picked it up in no time,” said Ellen Archer, who, with the aid of treats, taught Winnie the trick.

 

My visit to Charlotte — on top of checking out The Dog Bar, spending some time with cousin Laura, reconnecting with Perlmutt and re-meeting his now-grown and multi-talented daughter, Ainslie (today’s guest columnist) — also gave me a chance to look up another old friend, Ray Owens.

He’s one of my ex-college roommates who, despite being in near constant prank mode — then and now —  somehow managed to become a successful attorney. As it turns out, he has lost neither his hair, his sense of humor, nor his detailed memories of college days, including the time, driving home from a Deep Purple/Uriah Heap/Black Sabbath concert in Fayetteville, we hit a furious rainstorm. My yellow Firebird — though, I would argue still, a totally  hot car — had broken windshield wipers, so we resolved the matter by tying shoestrings to each wiper and, from inside the car, pulling the wipers back and forth manually the whole way home.

Not a bad trick, either. I think we rewarded ourselves from the sack of treats we carried with us for the trip — Fritos and bean dip, as I recall.

You might imagine that we’ve grown up since then — that we’ve all become respectable and responsible adults as we pass through middle age and beyond; that we’ ve realized that life is serious business and, once your hair is gone or going grey, it’s time to close the door on Black Sabbath, childish pranks, dopey behavior, running in circles and needless frivolity.

But if we’ve learned anything from or dogs, it’s this: Naaaah.

Chasing the blues away at The Dog Bar … Where everybody knows your (dog’s) name

 

And here is my idea of paradise.

It exists, after all, in Charlotte, North Carolina, where five years ago two dog lovers got together and opened a bar that takes “dog-friendly” to new and unfettered bounds.

This is not a bar you have to sneak your dog into, not a bar where you and your dog must sit prim and proper-like outside, not a bar where your dog must remain on his or her leash.

At The Dog Bar in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to see a dog behind the bar, a dog on top of the bar, a dog on top of a dog on top of the bar. Here dogs can be dogs. They can romp, run, drool and even — as Ace and that German shepherd appear to be doing in the slideshow above — flirt a little bit.

This, for dogs, and for me and my continuing quest for true dog-friendliness, was the promised land — a place so joyous, so non-uptight, so calmly chaotic that I could only sit back and take it all in for a bit before getting to my questions.

And my biggest question — being from Baltimore, where the health department considers ice “food,” and as a result bans dogs from the inside of bars — was how the heck did they get away with it?

Actually, it was pretty simple. The two women who opened The Dog Bar, J.P. Brewer and Audra Hartness, say they faced no insurmountable hassles when they made plans to hang up their bone-shaped shingle and open for business

“The city kind of scratched its head, like, ‘OK, I guess.” said Hartness, who was tending bar when we dropped in this week.

Initially, the health department’s only concerns — since the bar doesn’t serve food — were the bar’s glassware and the temperature of the water used to wash it. When, about a month after opening, the bar did away with glassware entirely — opting for plastic cups and beer served only in aluminum cans — those concerns went out the window.

Though the bar doesn’t serve food, you can still eat there. There’s a plethora of interesting restaurants right there in the neighborhood, most of which offer takeout and/or delivery.

The operators say they’ve heard of only one or two bars in the country that allow dogs such access.

The bar was Brewer’s idea, and, as you might guess, it started with a dog.

Brewer adopted Foster, a Weimaraner, after his owner passed away from cancer. When she decided the doggie day care she dropped him off at was not providing a loving enough environment, she started one of her own — Club K-9, also located in  NoDa.

There, the visiting dogs had a good time. The dog owners would show up, socialize, then head home with their pooches. Brewer thought there should be a place where both dogs and owners can socialize, enjoy both inter- and intra-species interactions, and have some fun.

She formed a partnership with Hartness, one of her doggie daycare customers who had a background in running bars and restaurants. And in October, 2005, they opend the bar.

On a typical night, there might be 15 dogs in the joint, on Fridays even more.

We dropped in on a Sunday. Ace and a black Great Dane named Dungy (after the football coach) were the first to arrive. Dungy was ready to play. Ace, not quite sure what to make of a dog bigger than himself, mostly kept his distance. Soon more dogs arrived — a boxer named Dempsey (after the boxer, Jack); two more Great Danes, one blind, one deaf; and Zero, a first-time visitor.

“This place is fantastic,” Zero’s owner remarked the second she and her dog came through the double gates entrance. “It really is a dog bar!”

The bar charges a $10 lifetime membership fee, and requires proof of rabies vaccination, and that dogs over a year be spayed or neutered. There are no breed restrictions.

“As long  as the dog is friendly off leash, there’s no problem,” Hartness said.

The bar has a fenced outdoor area — complete with plastic palm trees and beach umbrellas — where dogs can run, play and sip from troughs of water. Sometimes, when the crowd gets too big, they fence off the parking lot as well. Inside the bar, which has windows opening onto the patio, one wall is covered with black and white photographs, taken by Brewer, of her dogs and many of the regular canine customers.

Non dog-lovers don’t always get it, Brewer told the Charlotte Observer in an interview a couple of years after The Dog Bar opened.

“You see people walk past here and they do a double-take,” she said. Once, two  elderly ladies drove up in the parking lot and asked, “What kinds of hot dogs do you sell?” 

But dog-lovers do. Hartness says dog owners know to bring only well-socialized dogs, and she advises those who appear to have trepidations about their dogs to come back when their pets are better socialized. Most, though, know their dogs limits.

The presence of dogs — four-legged icebreakers that they are — means conversations start and flow easily at The Dog Bar. If there are any awkward silences, a dog generally drops by to help fill them. There were no real altercations on the night I was there — human or dog — and the only damage done I could see/feel resulted from the tendency of Great Dane’s whip-like tails to be exactly at human groin level. When they get happy, watch out.

Other than that, the night was sheer joy, in the kind of place I’ve only dreamed about — where dogs and humans can enjoy each other and be themselves.

Here’s to a happy future for The Dog Bar.

Cheers.

While The Dog Bar is, beyond doubt, the dog friendliest establishment in Charlotte, there are many more dog-friendly locales.  Keep reading for the list.

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