‘Dixie Cup Act’ goes to the dogs

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‘Dixie Cup Act’ goes to the dogs

My View, Tallahassee Democrat

Max Herrle

May 11, 2016

In 2006, the Florida Legislature passed the “Dixie Cup Clary Local Control Act,”named after then-state Senator Charlie Clary and his Yorkshire Terrier “Dixie Cup.” The law allows cities and counties to create a licensing structure to opt into legalizing dogs at restaurants.

In April, the Leon County Commission passed an ordinance that created an application process for restaurants to allow dogs in their outdoor seating areas. Tallahassee has long been a dog-friendly community, so it came as a surprise to many that the practice had previously been outlawed.

The Leon County license is a $100 fee, coupled with a $50 annual renewal fee. It only applies to restaurants in Leon County that are outside the city of Tallahassee limits. The Tallahassee City Commission is poised to vote on a similar ordinance for restaurants within the city limits.

It’s not clear what the revenue would do for the county – or for the city if it were to pass this ordinance with the $100 fee – or what the enforcement would even look like.

The state law requires mostly common sense regulations: non-service animals are only allowed in the outdoor seating areas, and restaurants have to apply to get this license.

But then there’s this: Section 10–6. 818 10 (B) reads: “Patrons in a designated outdoor area shall be advised that they should wash their hands before eating. Waterless hand sanitizer shall be provided at tables in the designated outdoor area.”

In one sentence, the state added a substantial cost of doing business for dog dining.

Restocking hand sanitizer for outdoor tables is a burden that, for many, would outweigh the benefit of allowing their patrons to bring their pooches.

Complying with the ordinance means having hand sanitizer right next to your mustard and ketchup. I wouldn’t be shocked if I accidentally topped off my Andrew’s burger with a splash of alcohol hand sanitizer. It’s not a tasty addition to a dinner table.

Instead, it’s another regulation that adds to a restaurant’s bottom line and makes the job of servers more cumbersome.

The worst part is that it’s likely nothing will be enforced. A Freedom of Information Act request filed in May of 2016 revealed that only three bars or restaurants in Tallahassee have been cited in the past 16 years for allowing dogs on restaurant property. None of them were fined for the infraction.

If only three violations ever occurred in 16 years, why now create a complex and expensive way to do legally what restaurants have already been doing for years?

Regulations like this are what increase the ceiling for opening new businesses in our city. This ordinance, while good in spirit, misses the mark and over-complicates an industry already rife with regulation and compliance.

The Tallahassee City Commission can’t change the Dixie Cup Clary Act, but they can alleviate some of the hardships by removing the application fee for local Tallahassee bars and restaurants.

Throw us a bone.

Max Herrle is president of the Tallahassee Bar & Hospitality Association, a trade association focusing on creating a safe and innovative environment for Tallahassee’s bar, restaurant and entertainment industries.

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