Tips for dog-friendly patio dining

7 things to know before bringing your dog to a dog-friendly patio in Chicago

  • Dog-friendly sidewalk seating at Bangers & Lace in Wicker Park
Dog-friendly sidewalk seating at Bangers & Lace in Wicker Park (Dan Peterson/For RedEye )
July 12, 2013|By JoVona Taylor | RedEye

You’ve heard of BYOB. What about BYOD?

Outdoor dining and drinking season is in full force, and more than 60 restaurants have declared their outdoor seating areas dog-friendly with the City of Chicago.

The city previously required a separate license for a restaurant to declare its outdoor seating area dog-friendly, but that now is folded into the retail food license. “Restaurants may establish a dog-friendly area in their outdoor space by simply providing a statement in their business activity description that they wish to establish such an area,” said Jennifer Lipford, director of communications for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.“

Besides making sure your dog has a current rabies vaccination tag, there are additional rules (and plain old good manners) that dog owners should keep in mind before toting their pup to a patio.

>>Where to go: 60+ dog-friendly patios in Chicago


With the exception of service dogs, city ordinance states that dogs should never be brought inside a restaurant. “To ensure indoor spaces are healthy and clean, dogs are not allowed to be in or travel through indoor parts of a restaurant,” said Gerrin Butler, director of food protection programs for the Chicago Department of Public Health.

A restaurant’s dog-friendly outdoor area must be accessible directly from the street, meaning sidewalk seating or a separate patio with a street entrance is fair game, but outdoor spaces that require customers to walk through the restaurant to get there aren’t eligible.

Michael Cannon, general manager of Seven Ten Lanes in Hyde Park, said having his dog-friendly patio in direct view from the sidewalk encourages passersby to stop and admire dogs accompanying their owners and helps bring in new customers.


Though asking your server to bring an extra burger patty for your dog or feeding your pet scraps from your plate seems innocent enough, both are no-nos. City ordinance states that while on the patio of a restaurant, a dog cannot be provided food by employees or customers.

“Don’t come to the restaurant and expect us to feed your dog, because we are legally obligated not to do so,” said Jim Moorehouse, general manager of Rockwell’s Neighborhood Grill in Lincoln Square.

Last year, Martial Noguier, chef/owner of Gold Coast restaurant Bistronomic, created a menu for canine customers featuring chicken, vegetables and rice dishes that complemented the restaurant's modern-style French cuisine—before realizing that implementing it would be a violation.

In Paris, where he is originally from, it is not uncommon to see a restaurant providing food for both customers and their dogs, he said. “We have a lot of repeat customers who bring dogs,” Noguier said. “If I could provide the dogs with food, I feel like I would be giving more of a service to customers.”


Taverns--which the city defines as a bar that sells alcoholic beverages as its primary source of business--that do not serve food are welcome to allow dogs either indoors or outdoors.

The SoFo Tap in Uptown is one such tavern that’s declared dogs welcome. “We are dog-friendly all the time, unless it’s very crowded, in which case we may ask people to come back with their dogs another time,” said co-owner Mike Sullivan. The SoFo Tap also hosts Doggy Days, an event specifically for dogs and their owners from noon-3 p.m. on Saturdays.

Sullivan and his staff have one overarching rule. “Please be responsible for your dog,” he said. “We ask that you stay in the same room as your dog--if you are on the patio, so should your dog--and if your dog has an accident, please clean it up, including on the patio.” The SoFo Tap has a bucket of water with disinfectant, a mop and poop bags on hand for owners to use if needed.


Although some restaurants don’t require dogs to be leashed at all times while on the patio, “definitely always make sure to bring a leash and keep your dog as close to your table as possible,” said Mike Matozzo, operations manager of Rockit Burger Bar, which features a dog-friendly outdoor area along Waveland Avenue. 

At Rockwell’s, Moorehouse leaves the leash decision up to his customers. “Some dogs are very well-trained without a leash, so we leave it up to the owner’s discretion if they want to unleash them,” he said.

The same goes at Bang Bang Pie Shop in Logan Square, which features a dog-friendly backyard patio that’s accessible from the street, though co-owner Dave Miller said that customers need to mind their dogs whether they’re on-leash or off.

RedEye Chicago Articles