GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A bill which would once again allow dogs in North Carolina taprooms that don’t serve food could be on the brink of passing.
Earlier this year, breweries in Forsyth and Guilford counties were notified they could be fined or have their licenses suspended if they didn’t cease allowing dogs into their businesses. For Mike Rollinson, co-owner and head brewer at Joymongers Brewing Co., Forsyth County officials first contacted him about their tasting room in West End in Winston-Salem. About two weeks later, Guilford County officials contacted him about their Greensboro location.
"The dishwasher basically is what put us into that situation,” he said.
In North Carolina, as breweries were expanding, it’s Rollinson’s understanding that the state couldn’t keep up, so they were lumped into restaurants.
In Joymongers’ case, since they have glassware which needs to be cleaned in a dishwasher, they fall under the restaurant umbrella.
Rollinson says they tried contacting the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, but they didn’t offer support.
"They went as far as to tell us nothing could be done and that we should be quiet,” he said.
So, they went a more “grassroots” route, and joined alongside Wise Man Brewing in Winston-Salem. But, what truly kicked off a movement was a Valentine’s Day post on the Joymongers Facebook page.
That post reached North Carolina House Majority Whip Rep. Jon Hardister.
"They're treated as a restaurant even if food is not being prepared on site,” Hardister said.
Hardister is a primary sponsor of House Bill 536. In section 14, it says breweries not engaged in the preparation of food on the premises would be exempt of sanitation regulations barring dogs.
"The decision would be made by the owner rather than the government telling the business what to do,” Hardister said.
Rollinson says having dogs inside his taproom adds to the atmosphere.
"It just makes it a really nice thing to be able to say, 'I'm gonna go have a beer with my dog,’” he said.
Customers at Joymongers say it’s one of the few places they can bring their dogs to safely socialize, while they can relax.
"I think dogs should be allowed in bars, yes,” said Roopali Sharma, who was sitting outside Joymongers with her dog on Memorial Day.
Hardister says the bill has passed through the ABC Commission. He’d hoped to have more action taken on the bill this week, but although it’s likely been pushed to next week, he feels it’s still in good shape to pass.
There are other pieces of the bill which could get more pushback, including ABC stores being open on Sundays and allowing tastings in ABC stores.
"Most of the feedback I've gotten on this has been very positive,” Hardister said, on the taproom portion.
Rollinson says the issue isn’t only about Guilford and Forsyth counties.
"It's gonna be great. It's gonna be great for the state, it's gonna be great for all the breweries,” he said. “It just makes sense."