Man and Woman’s Two Best Friends, Lawfully Together at Last?

Jan. 20, 2017

Few things beat a good summer day out on a brewery patio with a crisp beer and your dog at your side.  Unfortunately, the Hoppy Lawyers live in Minneapolis, where hanging out outdoors for portions of the year can result in some nasty frostbite and currently, our furry family members are not legally allowed inside of our favorite taprooms.

Many Minneapolis brewery owners who love dogs themselves have allowed beer lovers to bring their canine buddies into the indoor spaces of taprooms, in an effort to be welcoming and to accept all beer lovers, be they two- or four-legged.  However, this is as of yet still technically unlawful in Minneapolis.  While breweries are regulated by the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division of the state of Minnesota for many purposes, they also must submit to Minnesota Department of Agriculture inspections.  Because beer is classified as food by the Department of Agriculture, and the state does not allow dogs inside premises where food is prepared and served, health inspectors have had to inform dog-loving brewery owners in Minneapolis that their “All Dogs go to the Brewery” policies cannot continue.

This could change in the near future, however, if a request for change from the Minneapolis City Council is approved. On Monday January 9, 2017, the City Council asked the Health Department to allow a variance on state law for Minneapolis if it creates boundaries for the inclusion of Rover and Fido, such as making sure the dogs are under control, on leash, and not permitted in kitchen areas.

As with many areas of the law related to breweries and distilleries, the laws on the books in many states and cities were written in ways that may not be well-aligned with current trends in craft beer and spirits culture and business.  Sometimes, contacting a brewery attorney will help breweries to find creative solutions to work around restrictive laws.  Other times, as in the case of combining pups and hops, a change in the law may be the only path to change.

Other cities have gone in the opposite direction recently.  Denver, for example, did not routinely check breweries or cite them for allowing dogs inside – while probably not permissible, the city did not check on breweries for animal-related health inspections unless complaints were made.  Part of the reason for this is that the city went through budget cuts in 2011, leaving health inspectors short-staffed.  Now, however, with increased staff, regular inspections at breweries will be made.

There are a lot of issues with allowing dogs in breweries – space, fire codes, health and safety of patrons, health and safety of dogs, how can breweries be sure dogs allowed in have received all recommended shots, and what will breweries do if they want to allow dogs inside but also have customers that are allergic to dogs.  There are no easy answers to these questions.  A blanket ban on dogs inside breweries makes it easy for breweries by taking away any discretion they would otherwise have to exercise.  That said, there are likely breweries out there that would welcome dogs inside with open arms.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out with the City Council.  And if you own a brewery or distillery and have questions about this issue, we’re happy to talk about it – in fact, we’re always happy to talk about dogs.