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Beer Shop in doghouse over pet policy

Village ordinance says, "No dogs allowed"

March 13th, 2018 12:39 PM

Beer Shop file photo

By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

An Oak Park bar with a proclivity for pooches has been ordered by the village to put visits from Fido on hold until the Board of Health can determine whether dogs should be allowed to enter a locality where food and beverages are consumed.

Beer Shop, 1026 North Blvd., has encouraged customers to bring their dogs to the craft-beer drinking establishment since it opened its doors in 2015 and has held multiple dog-friendly events like the "Puppy Paw-ty!" in 2016 — a birthday party for Beer Shop "regular" Roxy the beagle.

In 2017, Beer Shop also promoted events like "Puppies 'N' Pints," which contributed 10 percent of sales to the Animal Care League, and "Santa & Me! Featuring 6 Mutts Chicago," giving patrons the chance to bring their dogs in for a complimentary photo with Santa Claus.

The business has run afoul of the ordinance prohibiting dogs in a bar for years with no complaints and customers seem to love it. More than a dozen testimonials on the Beer Shop's Facebook page note the open-door dog policy as among a favorite aspect of the bar.

"Unpretentious and dog friendly," one testimonial states. Another notes: "My dog gets to join us at the bar which is awesome!"

Social media presence notwithstanding, there is a dark underbelly to this puppy paradise.

In early January, a patron reported the business to the Oak Park Department of Public Health, telling the agency they witnessed one of Beer Shop's four-legged patrons urinate on a carpet in the establishment.

Once the complaint was filed, the village was compelled to act, according to Health Department Director Mike Charley, who directed Beer Shop owner Anthony Compaglia to block all dogs at the door until the Board of Health reviews the matter.

"We had a conversation and [Compaglia] agreed to not allow dogs until we could figure this thing out," Charley said.

Compaglia did not return calls requesting an interview.

He has, however, made a formal request to the village to adopt an ordinance that would allow the pups back in the establishment.

The Oak Park Board of Trustees referred the matter to the Board of Health for review at its March 5 meeting. The Board of Health will review Compaglia's proposal and research how other municipalities have approached the issue, Charley said.

He said it is the first time in 14 years at the village that he remembers a complaint about animals being in a food and beverage establishment.

Trustees had mixed reactions to the canine controversy.

Trustee Simone Boutet, who mentioned the issue at the March 5 meeting, noted that the business does not serve food — patrons can, however, bring their own or have food delivered. "I think we should let [businesses] succeed to the most extent possible," she said in a telephone interview. 

Trustee Dan Moroney said he might support having a few establishments that allow dogs, but he couldn't back making it the norm for all dining establishments.

"We're Oak Park; we're not some funky college town; we're not Haight-Ashbury," he said.

Trustee Andrea Button said she wanted to learn more about the ordinance banning dogs: "I'm not sure the law is founded on fact as one would be led to believe. It's worth exploring whether it really is a safety issue."

Trustee Deno Andrews, who served on the Board of Health for six years, said he has a different perspective because of his allergy to dogs.

"I like a place where you can go into and there's a dog hanging around; it's cool to allow a place to do that, but at the same time 15 percent of people in the U.S. are allergic to cats or dogs, so whose rights are to be protected more, the dog owner or the patron who wants to go in free of allergens?" he said.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com