Florida Bar Owners Fight Health Department Order Banning Dogs From Establishment

Not the establishment mentioned in the story. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Carson Choate Contributor
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The owners of a “dog friendly bar” in Florida are fighting a new order from the state’s health department (DOH) that bars dogs from being brought inside food-service establishments.

The owners of Pups Pub filed the challenge in court Feb. 2 after state health inspectors gave the bars an “unsatisfactory” rating in June, citing the dogs’ presence in the establishment, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Dogs are allowed to play inside at Pups Pub, and the bar features its own dog house with a slide, the outlet continued. The animals must be up-to-date with their vaccines, and must be spayed or neutered if they are above the age of one.

Co-owned by Alex Wright, the bar first opened in Tampa in 2020 and picked up a second location in 2022. The two co-founders have argued they were incorrectly targeted by the new DOH rule, saying they don’t serve food – just drinks, the Orlando Sentinel reported. (RELATED: Brewery Announces Canine-Friendly ‘Beer’ On National Dog Day)

“Despite its prior enunciation of its interpretation of its rules that dogs were authorized inside bar establishments as long as there was some minimum separation between the dogs and the area were the beverages were prepared, the department changed its interpretation and began prohibiting dogs inside the bar establishment as a whole,” the company said in the challenge, according to News4Jax.

They further alleged the department’s interpretation of the new rule is void because it “constitutes an agency statement of general applicability which has not been adopted as a rule and is applicable to dog friendly bars statewide,” the outlet continued.

The bar’s co-founders are now refusing to comply with the new regulations. “We are staying open. We are not closing,” Wright told the Orlando Sentinel. 

“We’re going to get to the place where we started, which is [to] let us work together with writing a new code to regulate dog bar concepts like this,” he added.