Feb 23, 2024 - Business

Explainer: Chicago's rules about dogs in restaurants and bars

A sign that says "We Love Dogs! But unfortunately, health code only allows service animals in our store."

A sign at Big Shoulders coffee. Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

As unseasonably warm weather graces Chicago and long walks are more enjoyable, dog owners might be confused where they can and can't bring their canine companions.

By the numbers: Searches for dog-friendly restaurants in Chicago rose 32% from 2021 to 2023, a Yelp spokesperson tells Axios.

State of play: Service dogs are generally allowed in most places under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since 2008, Illinois has also allowed establishments to permit "companion dogs" in outdoor areas of restaurants and bars where food is served, but not inside.

Zoom in: City ordinance is in line with state law, giving business owners the power to establish a "dog-friendly area" outside and accessible from the street.

  • Businesses have the right to refuse to serve a dog owner if they don't have their pet on a leash or aren't keeping the dog from behaving in a way that could threaten the health and safety of any other patron or employee.

How it works: Chicago Department of Public Health officials regularly inspect retail food establishments for health code violations.

  • CDPH's Jacob Martin tells Axios that if a customer brings a dog inside, the business should first check whether it's a registered service animal and, if not, tell the patron they must leave the dog outdoors.

Yes, but: Many business owners don't do that, which is why you'll see dogs inside places they shouldn't be.

What they're saying: Martin says the department monitors 311 and online complaints and will send inspectors quickly to a business that's often accused of violations.

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