Craft breweries often blaze trails that catch people off guard. One such trail is allowing customers to bring their dogs to the taproom. In urban areas packed with childless heathen millennials, dog friendly breweries can become true community centers. Why, here’s CBB’s resident heathen enjoying a beer among some four-legged friends in Cleveland’s West side just the other day.
Much like how dogs are loyal to their owners, customers are forever loyal to their dog-friendly breweries. But not all places allow this, either because of some rule written by a joyless Puritan, or, in the case of North Carolina, the lack of specificity in otherwise well-meaning regulations. Without a definitional carve out of their own, brewery taprooms — even those without food — are treated the same as restaurants in the state’s health code.
This quirk was brought to light after Joymongers Brewing was threatened with fines and possible closure by the health department if they continued to allow dogs into their taproom in February.
Even David Foust, the Guilford County Environmental Health Program Manager, didn’t seem like he wanted to enforce this when explaining it to Fox 8:
“[T]he only reason we are in this specific type of brewery or bar is the glassware,” Foust said.
Joymongers certainly was not the first craft brewery to run afoul of this code, but after thousands of Facebook followers rose to their defense, their story went viral and stirred up a local news scrum. But what’s wilder is how swiftly this all caught the attention of local government, which then moved into action.
“Previously, we had been privately told by industry insiders there was no legislative appetite for changing health code but NC Majority Whip, Rep Jon Hardister, saw the uprising among our thousands of followers on FB and jumped in to offer assistance in rewriting the law,” says Jim Jones, co-owner, Joymongers Brewing Co and Joymongers Barrel Hall.
“There are no villains in this story. County health departments were tasked with enforcing outdated laws. They are very supportive of a change to state laws to allow our best friends back in NC brewery taprooms,” Jones says.
Hardister worked with the Guilford County Health Department, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the Craft Brewers Guild and the chairman of the N.C. House ABC Committee to draft legislation to clarify and resolve this issue. This week, Hardister has revealed draft legislation that will be part of a larger Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission bill, which will officially be introduced to the General Assembly within the next two weeks. His office put it like this:
“After working with various stakeholders, it was determined that taprooms need to be clearly defined in state law. If a taproom serves drinks but does not prepare food, then they should not be subjected to the same standards as a restaurant. This would put taprooms in the same category of regulation as wineries, which would create consistency and clarity in the law.”
Under this legislation, it will be up to the individual taproom to decide whether or not they wish to allow pets inside their establishment. This will resolve the issue that was recently raised by Joymongers Brewing Co. and other taprooms that were told they could not allow customers to bring pets inside the building.