Food and Drink

Could dogs be allowed inside North Carolina breweries again?

Courtesy of Triple C Brewing
Courtesy of Triple C Brewing

If your dreams of drinking booze with your labradoodle were dashed two years ago, when Charlotte health inspectors began cracking down on breweries allowing dogs inside taprooms, your imbibing prayers might soon be answered: On March 8, Rep. Jon Hardister of Guilford County filed a bill that would allow dogs in the taprooms of breweries that don’t serve food.

The move comes after a Guilford County brewery, Joymongers, was cited for breaking the law because they were allowing pets inside the business. Hardister worked with the Guilford County Health Department, state health officials, and the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild to write the bill.

“We’re excited about it, and I know our breweries are excited about it,” said Rich Green, executive director of the Craft Brewers Guild. “The greater community is excited about it, too.”

If a brewery does not produce food but uses glassware, then it should be treated like a restaurant during health inspections, states the current state law, Green said. “It’s been loosely enforced around the state,” he said, which has led to quite a bit of confusion.

Courtesy of Triple C Brewing

Chris Harker, founder of Triple C Brewing Co. in South End, said he opened the brewery with dogs in mind and that health inspectors initially told him that it was OK to have them in the taproom. When inspectors began citing Charlotte breweries in 2017, the news came out of left field. “We were shocked,” he said. “Every time we asked, we were flat out told it was OK. We feel like it’s a problem the city created with inconsistencies.”

Harker said the sudden change was hard on business — Triple C had already established itself as a dog-friendly spot, and they had to tell a lot of regular customers to take their pups outside. He’s excited about the prospect of the bill because Triple C is right next to the Rail Trail and its surrounding apartments — a prime dog-walking location — but he said he knows there are quite a few people who won’t want the bill to become a law. “We would welcome dogs if we could,” Harker said. “We know that it’s not for everyone, but we’re dog-friendly people.”

In fact, when CharlotteFive reported on the health inspection enforcement in 2017, many readers voiced their relief that pets would no longer be allowed inside, namely because of cleanliness and space issues. A commenter named Becky said at the time: “I’m a dog person with two of my own but I’ve always held off taking them to breweries. With the family scene that has become more prevalent over the past few years, in my opinion, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

Others said allergies and not wanting to interact with dogs were major factors that affected their brewery experience.

Courtesy of Triple C Brewing

However, if passed, the new legislation would give brewery owners the right to choose whether they allow dogs in their business, a right already granted to North Carolina wineries. There might very well be some local breweries that opt not to allow pets.

Green said with the way people spend time with their pets nowadays, the change to the health code makes sense; it’s relatively common for someone to spend all weekend with their dog in tow. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” he said. “No, we’re pretty optimistic.”

He did add, though, that it’s way too early for dog-owning beer lovers to start ordering rounds in celebration. “It still has to go to committee,” he said. “Basically, all of ‘Schoolhouse Rock.’”