May 26, 2014
Head to Blue Mountain Brewery and it's not uncommon to see dogs soaking up the sun while their owners enjoy a cool beverage outside.
But after a recent crackdown by the Virginia Department of Health, you'll now only see pups in certain areas.
On Thursday, the brew pub was notified that, effective immediately, dogs are not allowed on the patio or other places where food is served.
The restriction comes after a patron made a formal complaint after seeing a dog eat off a restaurant plate.
A special pet-friendly area has been set up at the brewery. There's no table service in the new dog-approved space, but customers can still get beer and food in to-go containers to dine with their pooch.
"Not very many of our customers bring their dogs, but a lot do, and so if we took that away, we would lose quite a bit of business," said manager Jacob Mapstone.
Mapstone says, prior to the crackdown, employees followed the brewery's own rules regarding pets. For example, they weren't welcome inside and the waiters could not touch them.
But we're told Nelson County doesn't have its own rules for dining with pets, so now the brew pub is working with county and state leaders to set some.
"We're having to set up an ordinance basically to fit the rules so health code can go through and make a check list to see if we're doing everything right, so it's going to be a first for Nelson County," said Mapstone.
General manager Mandi Smack posted on Facebook that the current separate area is a "partial stay of execution" until their request for a variance is reviewed by the state.
"Rest assured that Nelson County and the breweries will be pushing hard to make sure this is sorted out as quickly as possible. Our county government is advocating very aggressively for this position and we find ourselves grateful once again to call Nelson County home," she wrote.
Mapstone says it's an important battle because many customers are drawn to the restaurant because of its pet-friendly atmosphere.
It's one of the reasons Richard Catlett brings his dog, Ziggy, when he visits from Richmond.
"Every time we go hiking, we usually like to stop here at Blue Mountain Brewery. It's easy just to pop in, have a quick bite, tie the dog up to the table and sit right here and relax," he said. "I think that it is important that they do have that option for the dog lovers."
Catlett says the new setup isn't what he's used to, but he -- and Ziggy -- are able to enjoy their time at the brewery without disturbing those who'd rather not dine next to a dog.
"I think it's good to have it fairly separated for people who maybe aren't as big fans of dogs...for cat people," he laughed.
For now, dogs will have to stay in their designated zone at the brewery until the variance is reviewed and approved by the state.