A state regulation by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services was recently amended to clarify that dogs and other pets are not allowed inside breweries and wineries.
According to officials, state law has prohibited animals in areas where food products are manufactured or stored, including breweries and wineries, for several decades.
But since the law was written in regards to food products, there was ambiguity for breweries and wineries that do not serve food. The state Department of Agriculture clarified the law, adding new restrictions to an existing regulation.
Kathryn Hatam and her boyfriend take their Vizsla, Mavrick, almost everywhere. And in the past, that has included wineries and breweries.
"He's attached to us but is very gentle with kids," Hatam said.
But when she and Mavrick visited a local winery recently, a staff member told her because she had Mavrick with her, she could only enjoy wine from the outdoor seating area.
"You can't do the tasting, and it was then difficult to order," Hatam said.
"The law has always been that dogs cannot be inside - that has not changed," said Elaine Lidholm, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. "This is basically adding a feature that they can be in outdoor areas."
The only exception to the rule is for guide and service dogs, Lidholm said. Regulators have added new requirements to allow pets in outdoors seating areas, which include having a separate entrance to the outdoor seating area and not letting them sit on tables on chairs, she added.
"We had a couple people this weekend with dogs," said Claire Ainsworth, general manager of Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers in Roanoke. "We do offer the patio, so you can still bring animals on the patio, and we've just kind of escorted them out there where we keep tables and tents."
Some of Soaring Ridge's customers do not yet know about the regulation change, so the brewery has posted signs on the front door and gotten the word out on social media, Ainsworth said. Many customers do not mind staying outside with their dogs, she added.
But Hatam said the new regulation may impact her plans to visit a brewery or winery.
"We can drink wine at home with some of our friends who have beautiful scenery around their house," Hatam said. "Why go to a winery, spend our money somewhere that won't accept part of our family?"
Despite varying opinions on the law, the penalties for a brewery or winery violating the regulation can be severe and may go as far as having an establishment shut down, Ainsworth said.
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