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Image: Kiki Kita

When I adopted a dog last October, the first place I took him—after the vet, I swear—was a Capitol Hill bar. Isn’t that what (man’s) best friends do? Turns out that asking bars if they allow dogs is tricky. The answer is rarely a hard yes or no.

What I learned: Some drinkeries welcome canine customers, but it’s figuratively (and literally) under the table. Most owners, when on the record, note that animals are a food-service violation; on the King County Public Health inspection form, Fido’s presence deducts more points than an improperly stored spatula but less than an unwashed potato.

(Caveat: We’re not talking about legit service dogs, allowed everywhere—and faking service status is terrible karma.)

Yet my new pup was welcome in my local Capitol Hill bar. Why? “It’s not that it’s not a rule, we’re just ignoring the rule,” the bartender told me with a shrug. So far my dog’s been inside a half dozen food joints around town, and not just on patios. 

Policy is rarely consistent.

“It’s not a major violation…not something they could shut us down for,” says Steve Habecker, owner of Norm’s Eatery and Ale House—the rare bar that plays up its dog friendliness. It’s welcomed dogs for its entire 14-year Fremont tenure and features a dog food menu with pupcakes and sausage cigars. “For the most part they’ve”—meaning the health department—“turned a blind eye.” 

There’s also Lake City’s Dogwood (more info here), a dog park with drink service. Breweries, which don’t serve food, often welcome pooches. But otherwise, getting a dog inside a bar is about lucky timing and laid-back staff. “I think everyone’s just kind of tight lipped about it,” says Habecker. Owners share info like they share the names of cheap dog walkers—carefully. 

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