On August 18, Jacksonville Beach's Southern Swells Brewing posted on Facebook a warning it received from the Florida Department of Health: No dogs in the building, or face possible closure.
The notice came as a surprise and was met with outrage by brewery patrons, many of whom have grown accustomed to the sight of pet canines chilling in the taproom on any given day. In the post, Southern Swells said DOH will begin enforcing a Florida statute that prohibits dogs and other pets inside breweries and bars.
Southern Swells' run-in with the law prompted Green Bench Brewing to start an online petition that encourages potential supporters to tell state representatives to pass dog-friendly legislation.
The petition, which was also shared on J. Wakefield Brewing's Facebook page, has already received more than 28,000 signatures, which is several thousand short of its goal of 35,000. "We consider this is a small-minded authoritarian approach since it has nothing to do with public health," the petition stated. "So far no one has suffered any kind of ailment as a result."
Other South Florida breweries seem to disagree with the law too. Dave Mathews of Lake Worth's Mathews Brewing says he wasn't aware of the law until someone told him. He doubts if other bar and brewery owners are aware that pets aren't allowed inside. A dog is part of the company logo, and Mathews touts his brewery as a dog-friendly establishment. He allows canines in his 5,000-square-foot beer garden, and only service animals are allowed inside. "I understand that dogs shouldn't be allowed where they're making the beer," Mathews says, "but not necessarily in the taproom, because we don't make beer there."
Brad Dalton, the DOH's deputy press secretary, says the law isn't new — it went into effect March 15, 1998.
"There is no current push for enforcement," Dalton wrote in an email to New Times. The Duval County Health Department sent out a letter as a reminder to all restaurants and bars in that county."
Florida's food hygiene standards are included in 64E-11, with section .008 prohibiting animals:
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Live birds and animals – No live birds or animals except for crustacea, shellfish, and fish in aquariums shall be allowed in a food service establishment, in vehicles used for transporting food or in any other area or facility used to conduct food service operations; except as provided under Section 413.08, F.S., and, further provided, that live birds may be present in food service areas where adequate engineering controls of the ventilation system will prevent contamination of the facility, employees, or consumers.
While DOH recognizes that bars don't have "traditional food service," according to the notice, it still defined alcoholic beverages as "food" that's intended for human consumption, and thus bars and breweries are food service establishments.
Food service establishments in Florida are subject to random inspections, and violations of the food hygiene standards could mean revocation of the business' food service license.
However, the law carves out exceptions for fish and birds, provided there's adequate controls of the ventilation system so that contamination is prevented. It still allows animals outside too.