Are Four-Legged Guests a Good Fit for Your Brewery?

Man’s best friend plus man’s favorite beverage might seem like a natural fit, but the fact is that making your brewery “pet-friendly” is a complex issue that requires much careful consideration.

Your brewery’s ability to legally admit pets on site depends upon your state, county and city regulations. If you are considering making the transition to a pet-friendly brewery, your first step should be checking with local authorities to find out what the regulations are in your area.

Once you have all your regulatory ducks in a row, you’ll need to check with your brewery insurance agent to find out how your pet-friendly status could impact your insurance coverage.

After all, says Richard Beall, principal of Beall Brewery Insurance, “Most breweries are focused on the pet-friendliness — not on the liability and other risk exposures that animals can bring to the business.”

If you move forward with your pet-friendly brewery, be sure that the rules for animal guests are clear. Give careful thought to your brewery’s rules (as well as to where you post them inside and out, and where visitors can find them on your website). Here are some suggestions:

Dogs must be on-leash at all times, with the leash tied to the patron’s chair (not the table, since a big dog could pull a table over).

Animals cannot block aisles at any time.

If a guest’s pet becomes a nuisance, that guest will be asked to remove the pet from the brewery. (Be sure brewery staff creates an incident report, even if there are no resulting injuries apparent.)

Guests may only bring dogs into outdoor dining areas directly from the outdoors; the animal may not go through any other part of the facility.

The pet should stay on the ground, and not be placed in a chair, on a lap or near the surface of the table.

If a guest’s pet makes a mess, the guest is encouraged to clean up after it. Brewery employees must clean and sanitize accidents involving bodily fluids or waste, and then sanitize themselves afterwards.

Pets should not use brewery glassware or dishware. If a guest does not provide a water bowl for his pet, the brewery should provide a single-use disposable container.

There are other situations to consider, too. For instance, what if a guest who is allergic to dogs enters your brewery? That’s where a sign posted outside the brewery, declaring its pet-friendly status, is a big help.

Posting the rules for animal guests will also help educate customers about what they can and cannot expect if they bring their pet to your brewery. Signage even puts you in a better position if a pet is causing problems, by excessive barking, for instance, or aggressive behavior toward other guests or animals present. And you must approach that customer and ask for the removal of their pet.

It’s also important to remember, and to ensure your staff is trained to know, that service animals are treated differently than other animals. According to a Department of Justice document about the Americans with Disabilities Act, “entities that have a ‘no pets’ policy generally must modify the policy to allow service animals into their facilities.”

Making your brewery pet-friendly could be a powerful marketing move, but balance it out with careful consideration of the risks involved. Beall pointed out that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, a dog bite occurs every 75 seconds in the U.S.

“Don’t let your pet-friendly policy take a bite out of your bottom line,” he recommended. “Make sure you’re obeying all pertinent laws, you have sufficient coverage should anything occur and that you establish rules for four-legged guests at your brewery.”


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