The New (Pet) Café Society
Say cheers with a glass of ‘Meowlot’ — fur-friendly places, yummy splurges
By Sandy Robins
updated 6:53 a.m. PT, Wed., Nov . 7, 2007
Every evening Justin Rudd dines with his two English Bulldogs named Rosie and Riley at one of the many pet-friendly restaurants on Second Street in Belmont Shore, Long Beach, Calif. He is not alone. The outdoor areas along the sidewalks are filled with other doggie diners. Not to mention the after dinner strollers out window shopping and stopping off at the local pet bakery to pick up a treat for their dog before heading over to Starbucks to meet up with friends for a latté.
There is no question about it — Americans are barking mad about their pets and this vignette is a mere slice of our new café society lifestyle as cities like Chicago pass ordinances that allow dogs to accompany their owners in outdoor areas of restaurants, and states such as Florida write into the law that restaurants everywhere can opt for allow doggie dining if they choose.
“If you’re going to take your dogs with you to restaurants and coffee shops, you have to be mindful of others at all times, says Rudd. “If a restaurant is crowded on a particular night, we’ll go somewhere else. And it’s important that your dog is very well socialized around both people and other pets. I never let them beg at the table or feed them off my plate.”
What about those who would prefer to have a fur-free meal? It’s fast becoming a debate similar to the smoking or non-smoking one. Even die-hard smokers would have to admit that dogs are far less invasive.
“And in all the years I’ve been doing it, no-one has ever complained, says Rudd. “ In fact, just the opposite; I take them in a red flyer wagon so that no matter whether they are allowed to sit next to us or on the other side of the railings we are on eye level and at least once a night someone still stop and take their photograph. They are particularly popular with tourists from other cities around the country that are not quite on the same canine wave-length yet. Others just stop to chat because they want to know more about Bulldogs as a breed.”
Pet bakeries and beverage manufacturers are taking advantage of this growing trend and producing delectable treat and drinks especially for pets to enjoy on these outings too.
Canine confectioners unanimously agree that the secret ingredient to all doggy delights is its “eye candy appeal” because that’s what is going to prompt the person on the other end of the leash to let go of the purse strings and splurge …
“Customers buy what’s visually delectable to them,” says Scott Rinehart of Wiskers Pet Beastro in Belmont Shore, Calif. whose store is wedged in between a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and a Starbucks, not to mention a plethora of pet-friendly restaurants frequented by Judd and his dogs. “Anything that resembles human confectionary has instant appeal.”
Many places happily provide water for canine companions in specially designed muttini or cosmopawlitan glass-shaped bowls, while others will even bring a plastic cup to the table especially for the dog to wash it down.
Pet Celebrations Inc. of Berkeley, Ill. is now producing a special soy-based doggy latté drink packaged with a packet of treats resembling mini donuts.
“You just add water and stir,” explains canine barista Robin Sparacino.
It’s proving hugely popular amongst the frappuccino and latté set who want to indulge their pets with all their human lifestyle choices. At this stage, pet owners have to bring it with them but no doubt it won’t be long for coffee stores will be offering doggy lattes on their menus too.
Doggy Java is a nutritious drink to keep dogs well-hydrated that looks like coffee and is served in a large cappuccino cup. Like Sparacino, its creator Mari Justin is hoping that pet-friendly coffee shops around the country will sit up and take note and hopefully add it to their regular drinks list.
The market is also being flooded by other doggy drinks such as doggie beer and wines for pups to enjoy when they accompany their owners to special yappy hour events, or even in pet-friendly bars around the country.
Happy Tail Ale is a non-alcoholic drink, made in a real brewery with artesian water and choice malted barley and sold as a six-pack. Brewed in 500-gallon copper kettles, all-natural beef drippings gives it a beef flavor and it’s fortified with Glucosamine and Vitamin E.
“Of course its best served cold,” says Jamie Miller of the Dog Star Brewing Co. in Napa Valley, Calif. who came up with the idea for the bottled beverage when she and her husband Kevin were out with their Akita named Kodi and a bottle of beer got knocked over and Kodi lapped up before anyone could mop up.
These days doggy beer is not only sold in restaurants and pubs but also in pet-friendly hotels and B&BS such as The Beazley House Inn and the Daughter’s Inn, in California’s Napa Valley also have “licker licenses”.
“Every dog gets a bottle as part of their welcome package on check-in,” says innkeeper Jim Beasley. “They just love it. I am sure if dogs had opposable thumbs, they would crack it open and down it directly from the bottle. They can’t seem to get enough!”
Every night Beasley’s own dogs Golden Retrievers Sissy and Tummy get to mingle and socialize with guests and down a beer too.
Another growing spin-off from this café society trend is special yappy hour events hosted by large hotels and social clubs for pet parents and the pets to meet and mingle. They are particularly popular amongst singles looking to meet other pet-friendly people. Sometimes these cocktail hours continue well into the night and become full blown parties.
Because not all establishments host a full-bar for pets — yet — for many party animals the BYODB rule, bring your own dog beer, still applies.
Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. Her work appears in many national and international publications and she also hosts the Pets on the Go radio segment on Pet Talk with Harrison Forbes on 97.1 Free FM radio, Los Angeles.
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© 2009 MSNBC.com