ody and Brian Harsany own five restaurants and a retail store, and three of those are named after their pets.
Those are Cosmo’s Restaurant and Bar, Luna’s Eat and Drink and Maggie’s Bottle & ‘Tail, all in the Cosmo’s courtyard on Canal Road in Orange Beach.
Their names may be on the door, menus and signs, but technically pets aren’t allowed — not only inside restaurants but even on the grounds of a restaurant, per Alabama law.
The Harsanys hope to see that changed.
“We saw how many people like to take their furry family members to dine with them in other states we’ve visited and thought how nice it would be to have this allowed in Alabama,” Jody Harsany said. “It will be one more alluring aspect of our area and the state for visitors looking to travel with their pets.”
She reached out to State Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Foley, to get a bill amending the state’s health codes to at least allow dogs in outdoor areas of restaurants. McMillan said the issue came up more than 10 years ago, but after talking with health department officials he decided against introducing it.
“They frowned on that so I didn’t push it,” McMillan said. “When I got up here to this session, they gave me a bill and wanted to know if I’d look at it and handle it. I thought I’d give it a try and see what happens.”
What happened was it breezed easily through the House and has been sent on to the State Senate for consideration.
“It was interesting and not even questioned when it was on the floor,” McMillian said. “The way we set that up is the restaurateur enters into a written agreement with the health department and agrees to enforce certain requirements. Like, for example, posting the rules and regulations they have to comply with. The dog has to be on a leash or in a carrier, and there has to be access to the outside dining area without going through the indoor part of the restaurant.”
There are several other caveats outlined in the bill, including cleaning up after the pets when necessary, maintaining a certain distance from where drinks are mixed for customers and restaurant staff must wash their hands if any contact is made with the pets. McMillan said people in Baldwin County and statewide have voiced support for the bill.
“I had several people from Fairhope and several people from Huntsville that contacted me the day it was introduced and they were excited about it,” McMillian said. “It was amazing how much support it had when it came up on the floor.”
He just hopes it gets the same warm welcome in the State Senate, where it is now in a committee.
Jody Harsany said she’s seen the statewide support as well, and the backing of the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association (ARHA) has been helpful.
“This proposal would definitely not be at this point in the process without the efforts of Mindy Hanan, president and CEO of ARHA and the ARHA staff,” she said.
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