Local News

Must love dogs? Flossmoor to allow pets in outdoor dining areas despite some disagreement

Restaurants in Flossmoor may now allow dogs and cats in outdoor dining spaces, but the new ordinance did not get unanimous support from the village’s trustees.

The village board voted 5-1 on Monday, May 17, to pass an ordinance amending Flossmoor’s municipal code to pave the way for animals to be allowed on premises during business hours where food is sold, though only in outdoor spaces. Trustee Joni Bradley-Scott cast the lone dissenting vote.

Bradley-Scott said she felt the ordinance needed more context to recognize that some people may not want animals around while they are eating.

“I think perhaps we need a little more language around capacity — the ratio of diners versus space,” she said. “I definitely think we have a community of pet-lovers. And so, I would not want to discriminate about people bringing out dogs.”

Village Attorney Kathleen Field Orr said the problem with a ratio would be who would count both people and animals at restaurants. She suggested the village could use feedback from the restaurants to amend the ordinance as necessary going forward.

“The problem is enforcement,” she said. “I don’t know how we’re going to enforce it. … The businesses themselves recognize if it is a problem with their own customers, because they have the most to lose.

“We would be very responsive to any issues that were brought to our attention.”

“You don’t enact laws that you can’t enforce,” Trustee James Mitros added.

Technically, the previous version of the village’s code prohibited animals “on premises during business hours where food is sold or offered for sale.” But Flossmoor Station Restaurant and Brewery requested a change to allow pets in its outdoor dining and patio areas. So the village deleted the old clause and replaced it with one only prohibiting animals “inside any premises where food is sold or offered for sale, during business hours.”

Though, on a practical level, animals have already frequented the outdoor spaces of Flossmoor restaurants, typically through special events and without issue, according to Mitros.

“This has been going on for years in Flossmoor,” Mitros said. “It’s not something that they’re not used to doing. … It’s never been a problem. It’s really not been an issue that I know of.”

Trustee Perry Hoag added that the change does not mean every business in town will allow animals. The code leaves it up to the business to set their regulations.

“All this really does is to allow dogs,” Hoag said. “If they want to allow dogs for outdoor dining, they can.”

Mitros added, “And if you’re a consumer and you don’t want to sit and have dinner on the deck by a dog, you should go inside or go someplace else.”

“What if I’m sitting there first?” Bradley-Scott replied.

“You know that it’s allowed,” Mitros said. “If you’re highly against it, you wouldn’t go to that place, probably.”

Hoag added that restaurants also can make rules about dogs that are not behaving that would dictate owners and their pets need to leave, in those instances.

“I don’t want to have a dog right next to me barking, either,” he said. “I don’t think anyone does.”

Mitros added that “dangerous” dogs are obviously not welcome.

“We know what a dangerous dog is,” he said. “We’ve had issues with dangerous dogs. We’re not suggesting people should bring their dangerous dogs up to any patio to have a beer with them. This is for docile pets that probably lie at their owner’s feet.”

Orr noted that the village assumes “no liability” by simply removing the restriction from its code.

Bistro gets Economic Incentive Grant
The village board voted unanimously to approve an Economic Incentive Grant of $5,210.08 for the Bistro on Sterling. The money is designed to financially support both the Bistro and Dunning’s Market in their efforts to continue outdoor dining.

The village originally provided tents and picnic tables for outdoor dining. The grant will help them purchase tables, chairs and umbrellas for the restaurants’ outdoor dining area, according to a report from Assistant Village Manager Allison Matson.

“This is a way, essentially, to support those efforts on public property and not have the village assume any responsibility for any equipment that’s used out there privately on public property,” Village Manager Bridget Wachtel said. “It’s much cleaner from a liability standpoint to support their efforts and use of equipment out there to just do that financially as opposed to the village going to purchase this type of equipment and for us to own it and store it.”

The grant is seen as in the best interest of the village and its residents by helping restaurants continue to operate and employ people, according to Matson’s report.

Hoag ultimately voted in favor of the measure but questioned whether the village should be actively extending the offer to more businesses.

“It’s a very small amount but philosophically kind of rubs me wrong,” Hoag said, asking about Flossmoor Commons “They’re struggling over there, too.”

But Wachtel said the biggest difference, in this case, is that the Bistro and Dunning’s do not have private property for outdoor dining.

“Flossmoor Commons has private property to accommodate outdoor spaces,” she explained.

Outdoor liquor service to continue
Downtown businesses will continue to have the ability to conduct “sidewalk sales” of food and liquor through Oct. 15. The measure effectively allows outdoor service to continue in that zoning district.

The village board voted unanimously to approve the extension of a measure initially approved last year to support restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dunning’s Market and the Bistro on Sterling expressed an interest in continuing with those offerings, which necessitated some use of public property.

Flossmoor Station falls under the same regulations but does not require a separate license because it is not using the village’s property, according to Matson.

Community Calendar

News by email

Subscribe to The Latest (daily headlines email)

* indicates required

View previous campaigns.

Free weekly newsletter

Subscribe to The Weeks (weekly newsletter)

* indicates required
Most read stories this week