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Flagler Beach Restaurant Owners Vow To Fight City’s Ban on Dog-Friendly Dining

| August 29, 2011

The Java Joint has a large clientele of dog owners. Flagler Beach won't allow them there with their dogs anymore. (© FlaglerLive)

The Java Joint has a large clientele of dog owners. Flagler Beach won\’t allow them there with their dogs anymore. (© FlaglerLive)

Several restaurants in Flagler Beach allowed patrons to bring their dogs along as long as they dined in areas designated for doggie dining, outside the establishment’s indoor area. Among those restaurants: Java Joint, Hurricane Patty’s, Flagler Fish Company and Spencer’s.

The Java Joint has allowed dogs on its beachfront deck for the seven and a half years it’s been at that A1A location on the northern fringe of Flagler Beach. It’s never been an issue, the Joint’s two co-owners say. City commissioners hadn’t until now heard of complaints, of dog bites or dogs barking while others dined, let alone dogs relieving themselves where they shouldn’t. They hadn’t even heard of the state regulation that allows doggie dining, but only as long as local governments ratify the allowance with an ordinance of their own and let restaurants that choose to do so opt in. Flagler Beach has no such ordinance.

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Two things happened to push the city administration to draft the ordinance: the state fined a restaurant for allowing dogs there without an ordinance in place, and the Flagler Fish Company “splashed the news that they now have that area,” in the words of city planner Chad Lingenfelter. “We were naturally concerned because you might get caught by the state. So that helped rejuvenate this desire of maybe we provide this,” if only to help those restaurants grow and avoid fines.

But when the proposal appeared before commissioners last Thursday, a 3-2 majority shot it down, essentially forbidding—and ending—what had been a common, and non-problematic, practice at several of the city’s popular restaurants. Commissioners John Feind, Marshal Shupe and Kim Carney voted against it. Jane Mealy and Steve Settle voted in favor. Shupe and particularly Carney were elected last March after campaigning in favor of more friendliness toward local business. Shupe’s vote was a surprise, because toward the beginning of the discussion he’d said: “I’ve changed my mind. I’m also in favor of this if it’ll help, too.” He just wanted to make sure that the permit fee for restaurants allowing doggie dining was set high enough to cover the city’s costs.

Carney’s opposition focused on the subjectivity of the proposal. “Under control to you and under control to me might mean two different things,” she said, referring to a provision that requires dogs to be kept under control. She continued: “I have no idea how we’re going to enforce this, other than just letting them do their thing. I did do a little bit of research with St. Augustine Beach, and they went through this whole process, spent lots of money, lots of time on ordinances, and in one of their 2009 editions of the recorder, said that they offered this to over 200 restaurants, and two took them up on it. So I understand where we’re coming from. I don’t want to put a lot of energy into this. I am also very—I’ll use the word unhappy, because I was, when I saw all this time and energy that went into this, and it never came before Bruce [Campbell, the city manager], it never came before commission, it just kind of landed here, and someone put a lot of energy into this.”

Audio: The Full Doggie Dining Discussion and Vote

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“I was aware of it and I am aware of it from the fact that it has been worked on for many, many months,” by staff, Campbell said Monday–long enough that it pre-dates Campbell’s tenure as acting manager. It’s his planner, after all, who led on the matter, and the city attorney who drafted the ordinance. Campbell clarified during the meeting Thursday: “This isn’t the city that’s placing this mandate out there, it’s the state. This is a pre-emption. By us adopting this ordinance, so that our restaurateurs can decide do they want to continue having outside doggie dining or not, and if they do, this is the way to sign up and the way to do it legally so they don’t get fined like one of our restaurants already has. So it’s not the city cooked this up or trying to do undue hardship on our restaurants. With this in mind, the state has already decided that these are the rules that you’re going to have.” The rules, down to what products to use when, say, a dog has an accident, are clearly set out and exempt local governments from drafting them.

Whatever energy went into the proposal, the ordinance’s supporters did not go about it with much savvy. In Flagler Beach, preparing the groundwork is important when local interests want to get something done. And when the matter appears before the commission, those interests do their best to pack the room with supporters (or opponents). Witness the last time a dog matter landed in the commission’s lap: when the city in March considered banning dogs from the beach, the room was full to capacity, with spill-over, and more people spoke on that issue—34 in all—than on any in commissioners’ collective memories.

The number of people who spoke to commissioners on the dog dining issue: zero (other than city staff and the city attorney, that is). Nor did restaurant owners educate commissioners ahead of time. Even the ordinance’s chief sponsors, Kathleen Stark and Danita Mundy, co-owners of the Java Joint, were not able to be there, though they had turned in a petition with some 200 names, according to Mundy, customers supportive of the Java Joint’s dog-friendly policy.

It’s not over for Mundy and Stark. “We’re going to fight it until we get it,” Mundy said. In the meantime, she said of the new restriction, “We’re going to lose some business because of it, especially from some of our older customers. Their dog is their life. They go everywhere with them. We’ve never had any incident, any conflict with any dog up here, never a problem. The majority of people have better common sense than to bring a problem dog.” The Java Joint’s customers, many of them from the Hammock, like to come down for time at the beach then hop across the street with their dog for lunch. That routine, Mundy fears, was just chilled.

Carney, the city commissioner, had cited the liability issue, raising the prospect of, say, a child being bitten and the city not being able to trace down the offending dog if that dog was not registered in Flagler Beach. But the Java Joint has $1 million in liability coverage. As for risking a lawsuit against the city, Drew Smith, the city attorney, said it would not be an issue: the city has sovereign immunity.

The prospect of lack of proper enforcement is what focused commissioners’ opposition—despite a history devoid of dog-related issues at restaurants, or Smith’s assurance that inspections are the job of state inspectors, not the city’s.

Feind, the commission chairman, was not satisfied, even after the city attorney had essentially indemnified most of the city’s responsibilities should the ordinance get enacted. “How are they going to implement this? The people cleaning up after accidents, the people that are eating are going to be holding the dog on a leash? I don’t envision that working out too well,” Feind said. “The enforcement, are we going to put the manpower to check up on this? I don’t think so. And that means, who’s going to follow through on this? We’re going to be relying on state inspectors whenever they may or may not come, which is probably very infrequently. As has been said, what are we going to do to verify these complaints? Do we have anything set up to take the complaints? Who’s going to respond? We’re going to send the police there?”

“The most that we have to do,” Smith had said earlier, “is have a system set up to receive complaints and transmit that information to the state.” The city itself, in other words, is not on the hook for inspections. There’s a parallel with child care centers: there are a few in the city. But the city doesn’t inspect them. The state licenses and inspects them—very rarely, even though, presumably, children’s welfare at day care centers is more critical than doggie dining. Other than criminal matters, complaints over day care centers are lodged with the state, and followed up through the state.

“We have proclaimed that we are a friendly city, and we’ve encouraged business to come here,” Mayor Alice Baker, who had no vote in the matter, said, “and we have a lot of outdoor restaurants and entertainment. I think this would help the business.” Her words had little impact.

“I think it’s a shame. I’d like to see it reversed,” Flagler Fish Company owner Chris Casper, who had to end the pet-friendly area on the patio outside, said. “I really don’t see any negative to it.”

Campbell doesn’t think it’s over. “I wouldn’t consider it to be a dead deal,” the acting city manager said. “I think it could still come back around, maybe we all become more comfortable with it.”

42 Responses for “Flagler Beach Restaurant Owners Vow To Fight City’s Ban on Dog-Friendly Dining”

  1. notasenior says:

    I have to pick dog crap off my lawn, deal with unleashed dogs on the beach – I shouldn’t have to deal with dogs while I’m trying to eat. Kepp the mutts at home!

  2. Vincent Ciolino says:

    With the dogs come their flees and worms. I don’t think I could eat at place that allowed animals.

  3. Mary Fulcher Lamer says:

    Just another way to get more money out of the restaurants!! Doggies are people too!! Leave them alone!!

  4. Vincent Ciolino says:

    No dogs are not people but I totally understand the emotional attachment.

  5. Libby Kanipe Willis says:

    There’s a choice. People can eat inside. Why not let the restaurants decide. No problems for those who were doing it. Let them continue. :)

  6. beachbum says:

    [1] Dogs are animals. Animals do not belong where humans are eating.

    [2] Dogs do not have “accidents” — they have no sense of right or wrong unless they are in their own environment where they are trained. They just poop.

    [3] Not all dog owners are responsible. In fact, in my experience, a large chunk of them are quite the opposite. Just watch how many of them (don’t) carry plastic bags when they walk their dogs on the beach, and count the number of times you must side-step when walking on sidewalks anywhere, let alone the poor saps who own lawns on corner lots.

    I hate ANY legislation. I am against ordinances that prevent smoking in restaurants/bars, even though I’m not a smoker, simply because the market can decide for itself if tit will patronize such places that allow it. But this one, I’m afraid, is valid.

  7. palmcoaster says:

    Lets see that pet friendly petition for the ladies owners of Java as we want to sign as well. Also please lets make the effort to be present at the FB pet friendly ordinance, next meeting agenda when rescheduled…
    I love to arrive by boat to Hurricane Patty’s and have my pooch by my feet while dinning and now I will visit the Java Joint and Flagler Fish Co. as well if this ordinance will pass. We spent lately 4 times at Hurricane’s Patty because the pet friendly policy.
    Very trendy Scottsdale AZ has pet friendly breakfast, lunch, Paradise Bakeries and dinning allover the city and here small and cozy FB prohibits it? This is a tourist oriented state as I understand and where many pet lovers like us reside as well. We are supposed to promote not kill business in these hard economic times, correct?

  8. Mike Bencal says:

    Restaurants are for people. If I wish to eat outside I should be able to do so without having to deal with animals!

  9. Kendall Clark-StJacques says:

    If dogs are permitted outside then people that dont want to deal with them can eat inside.

  10. John Smith says:

    Dogs do not belong where food is served to people. Who is liable if someone is bit by a dog? You all got your dog friendly beach so that is not good enough. Next they will want there right to poop in your yard saying its a public road we have a right. Well you dont so keep the dogs at home.

  11. Mike Bencal says:

    Since I am the one paying, and not the dogs, I should be able to choose where I eat – in or out!

  12. Jose Pinho says:

    Another way for the government to control our lives. If it has not caused a problem, why cause a scene?

  13. M Kendall Clark-StJacques says:

    And if I am paying and want to bring my dog I should be able to.

  14. Mike Bencal says:

    your right to bring your dog ends where my desire NOT to dine with mutts begins. restaurants are for people, kennels are for dogs!

  15. Lin says:

    When I first moved down here, I stopped for ice cream in flagler beach. There was a dog walking around where the ice cream (inside) was being scooped. Inside, or outside, food prep & animals don’t mix IMO. I don’t want to walk through the animal traffic to get to the door whether or not the pets are alowed inside the food serving place. But just nice to know which places allow pets — I can vote with my feet & not patronize them. Dogs (like people LOL) can be unpredicatable & I think it is asking for trouble for a city to “allow”.

  16. tulip says:

    I won’t eat at a place that allows animals at tableside, with the exception of a Service Dog. Also, if someone gets bitten by a dog, is the restaurant responsible?

  17. Ed says:

    People can’t grasp the fact that OTHER PEOPLE DON’T LOVE THEIR STINKY DOGS LIKE THEY DO! No. I don’t want your dog sniffing me. No. I don’t want your dog licking me NO! I don’t care if he’s friendly or not.

  18. PJ says:

    I don’t want to smell some stinking dog while I pay for my expensive meal. Keep the pet home. Forget the liability it is not healthy. Hairs, poop, urine, food. Hmm something does not look good when I read it. should I have left out the food?

  19. Owen says:

    It has nothing to do with dogs …….Flagler Beach is the absolute king of ” Look at me ” small town politics !!! I’m embarrassed to be associated with some of these folks .

  20. Val Jaffee says:

    Some folks like casinos, I don’t – so I don’t go.
    Some folks like cigar bars, I don’t – so I don’t go.
    Some folks like bowling, I don’t – so I don’t go.
    Some folks like massage parlours, I don’t – so I don’t go.
    Some folks like fast food restaurants, I don’t – so I don’t go
    Some folks like dog friendly restaurants, I don’t – so I don’t go

    To each his own. Don’t like it – don’t go.

  21. michelle says:

    If and when this ordinance is passed, I would like to see a list of the “pet friendly” places, so I know where to avoid. I do not want to eat my food and have someones dog sniffing around at my toes. I realize some people treat their animals like their children, however, its not my dog nor my child and I dont want to eat with it!

  22. palmcoaster says:

    I still have to put up with second hand smoking and have to switch tables all the time in all outdoors serving areas of restaurants and that is riskier to my health than my dog quiet presence under my table outside as well.

  23. NortonSmitty says:

    Every day my dog is in our dining room when we eat. He doesn’t beg, and so far I guess we’ve been lucky because none of my family had died from this yet.

  24. cynical says:

    I’m amazed at how uptight and cranky many of the posters are on this story. Many of these restaurants have had a long history of allowing dogs with NO problems. Don’t like the dogs outside, eat inside. Don’t like smoking outside, eat inside. Don’t like these options, eat somewhere else. If the dog bites someone, Yes the restaurant is going to be legally responsible and this a risk they take if they choose to allow dogs. No one is proposing to let dogs anywhere near the food prep, or even inside of the establishments. If you want a straight laced, character void, bureaucratic suburbia that is trying to over-regulate everything Palm Coast is the next exit up on 95. You can find your early bird specials and get your corporate chain restaurant fix fulfilled to the fullest.

  25. Annette Moore Massey says:

    Geez Mike, never took you for a dog hater..ruh roh shaggy! Ha

  26. Mike Bencal says:

    Not a dog hater, we actively support animals shelters, but I draw the line at restaurants and grocery stores

  27. Linda Morgan says:

    I’m surprized that no one has brought up kids and babies yet. There are a lot a children that are afraid of dogs, especially large ones. I love to take my granddaughters out to eat and I love to have them outside (when it is not 90 degrees). So I would have to make the same choice as not having them outside where smokers are. Hmmmm too many decisions. I just want to go out and eat and have the decision be, what am I going to have to eat. I wonder what the first “stupid pet trick” will be. J/K that was suppose to be funny!

    And to the question, who is liable if a dog bites? Wow, do you really want to find out? Not me.

  28. Diane J Cline says:

    We are so lucky to have the commissioners that we have. I propose we take this a bit further as I had not realized how potentially dangerous it is to have dogs. I think we should outlaw all dogs from anywhere within the city limits of Flagler Beach. Just think of all the houses that have dogs in them…makes me cringe. They probably even let them in their kitchens…oh no. I think I’m having a palpitation. And, the people that are touching them…grose…and you just don’t know when they have last washed their hands. Disgusting. Why, they might not even be using the right kind of soap!

    Yes…no dogs….or cats…or birds…and of course reptiles…or frogs…or mosquitos. I guess fish would be okay…they’re in water.

  29. Rover says:

    Bark, Bark….Rrrroff, Rrrofff….Bark Bark, Rrrofff Rrrofff. I smell a cat !

  30. palmcoaster says:

    For those here that think a dog or pet should only be treated as the animals they are only and not as our faithful uncontested loving companions, I would ask if they think that Hawkeyes should have been also denied access to his beloved master funeral….as per your thoughts here.
    Also dogs besides giving their lives to preserve those of our braves ones in the war front should have the enjoyments of peace time along their owners….were they are allowed in.

  31. John Smith says:

    palmcoaster that was really touching but has nothing to do with eating at a restaurant and having a dog around the table. That dog was in a place of god not a food joint and the 2 are not the same. Leave the military out of the picture. Dolphins also serve this country so are we suppose to eat with them or maybe just eat them.

  32. elaygee says:

    I’d rather have a no children policy than a no dogs policy. I’ve had my meals ruined by bratty, yelling, food throwing, stomping, ruuning around children whose parents can’t or won’t control them but NEVER once has my meal been ruined by someone’s pet dog.

  33. curious says:

    Diane I love the sarcasm. Get over it people!!!!I cannot believe that this Commission has decided this way. The City wants business but with conditions. We are a funky Town and have always been. I have seen dogs that are better behaved than children. Live and let live is FB motto, yet we are now moving to be Palm Coast. Leave well enough alone. You know, I am tired of the northerners coming here and making the rules. They have no clue.

  34. curious says:

    Kim Carney……. Supposedly pro business. That is all I heard for over a year and during her campaign. Shame on you. You complain but you make matters worse for the businesses you said you would protect. You are a phony and only out for what is best for you. Sorry I voted for you.

  35. NortonSmitty says:

    This dog about sums up the attention span of the Political class in Flagler Beach. ” Well, I think we should do all we can to support the growth of business here in …. Squirrel!!!!”


  36. palmcoaster says:

    John Smith my dog does not go around the table, but seats at my feet “under the table” and meanwhile helps a local business to keep one more paying family on the former allowed seating outside. Too bad about the “former” by now.

  37. Hsart says:

    Wow, it just Amazes me what Trival B.S. can Spark so much Contraversy here in Flagler Beach;AKA MAYBERRY!!! We are Avid Animal Lovers Regardless of this Comment. With the Exception of Service Animals whom are Trained and Provide assistance to the Disabled, I Beleive Florida Law States Any Food Serving Establishment that Allows Dogs, Must have an Outside Designated Area, Must have a Permit, Must Provide some type of Hand Sanitizer at said Designated area and the Dog Must be Leashed and Controlled by its Owner. Now I dont know about the Rest of You but I cant even Begin to tell you How many times We have seen Dogs in a Parked Vehicle at Everyone of the Local Restaurants, With the Vehichles Window HalfwayDown, Dogs Tonge Hanging out as Far as it will Reach, While the Owners are inside in the A/C eating!!!! Makes Me PUKE !! During the Hot Summer Months I Cant even begin to think why ANYONE would want to bring His or Her Dog to a Restaurant Only to be Tied to a Designated Table in the Blistering Heat and Made to Sit or Laydown and Be SILENT ! We have a Dog Friendly Beach, utilze it your dog will be much Happier walking or Running with cool water at their feet, Rather than laying in the Hot Sun, Smelling all that Food they Cant Have!!!!!! Bottom Line is If Any Establishment Meets All the Critera Regarding the Dogs, Its NOT an Issue at all. And Some of the Readers Comments Above Are FACT: Dont Forget the LIABILITY ISSUE!!!!!

  38. tulip says:

    Hsart——Very well said!!!!

  39. George says:

    Faliure Beach does it again. Let’s find another way to block the progress of our city! There has never been a problem with dogs at restaurants anywhere around here, EVER! If your dog is bothering people at a restaurant you and your dog will be asked to leave. The same goes for people. There are more drunk obnoxious people with bratty kids that ruin dining than dogs. Leave it to Faliure Beach to pass more legislation that makes it harder for businesses to succeed. In this economy, FB should be doing all it can to help local business and courting new ones.

    Feind is a known dog hater. Don’t trust anything he says on this issue. FLAGLER BEACH IS NOT LIABLE IF A DOG BITES SOMEONE at a restaurant! The restaurant’s liability policy covers such things.

    A dog is no more unsanitary than a person…and there are enough children that crap themselves at restaurants and their feces gets out in dining areas. Should we ban kids too? NO, we are grown adults (most of us) and we can deal with it.

    Don’t pass more legislation that says NO YOU CAN’T DO THIS OR THAT, Failure Beach. Don’t do it! There is enough prohibition in the rule books. This prohibition doesn’t help anything, except please those who hate dogs. This town is doomed if the way of thinking doesn’t become more open to progressing as a society. Both culturally and economically doomed.

    This commission that claims it is pro business needs to start saying “YES, let’s find a way to do this,” rather than “NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT”. DO SOMETHING POSITIVE FOR ONCE!

  40. Gloria says:

    Personally I’d rather have government disallow smokers in public places, there is far more damage done by second hand smoke. Outdoor areas have sprouted up for smokers and still they pose a health threat to humans. That’s why I sit inside. If you don’t like dogs, SIT INSIDE. There has never been a case of illness due to a dog sitting next to its owner in an outdoor area.
    Why do we continue to allow government to dictate every tiny aspect of private business? John Fiend, a know dog hater (just ask his neighbors) tries to plea some ridiculous case of how it’s unsanitary or if a child is bitten or etc etc how will it be enforced, how does the city deal with the liability? Blah Blah Blah
    Restaurants have major liability insurance to deal with such things, not to mention, it is the dog owner that is responsible. THERE IS NO LIABILITY TO THE CITY. If you get bit by a dog outside of the Town Hall, are you going to sue the city? That theory is just asinine. This business of saying it’s going to be so expensive to enact an ordinance is a smokescreen. These commissioners are paid by salary to do their job and this is part of it. They say they are pro-business but alas, just like all politicians, when they get into office, they ignore their campaign promises. I am ashamed to say I voted for Shupe and Carney. Shame on them.
    These businesses need all the customers they can get. Like it or not, we are a dog friendly community. Folks travel here to Flagler Beach to spend money on hotels, shops and restaurants with their dogs…
    But hey if you wait long enough, there won’t be any restaurants around to complain about…and then tourism will dry up completely in Flagler Beach…and then taxes will really go up.
    Instead of constantly saying NO…how about we create solutions to make everyone happy?

    Enact the ordinance
    Include basic guidelines necessary for permitting (i.e. sanitation stations, leash law, etc)
    Have restaurants apply for yearly $100 Permits
    Let businesses and the health inspectors do the rest.

    PS If you still don’t like outdoor dining with dogs…go inside. Besides, if a bird craps on your sandwich, you’re going to be far more ill from that than if Fido licks yer leg.

  41. George says:

    Again…Flagler Beach, please come up with ways for Flagler Beach to succeed and prosper, rather than passing more legislation that is a cause for failure. DO SOMETHING POSITIVE, FOR ONCE!

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