Dogs may soon be officially allowed on restaurant patios in Starkville depending on how the upcoming legislative session goes.
At its meeting Tuesday, the Starkville Board of Aldermen approved a resolution asking the Mississippi Legislature to pass a local and private measure authorizing restaurants to allow dogs on their patios if they desire to do so.
The measure passed 4-2 with Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn against. Ward 5 Alderman Hamp Beatty was absent from the meeting.
Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill said the practice was technically against Mississippi law, with many establishments unknowingly violating.
“Any number of our restaurants allow them on their patios, and it distresses me that we have our restaurants not following the law,” Spruill said. “Thinking about it, I talked to our legislators Rep. (Rob) Roberson and Rep. (Cheikh) Taylor, and they both said that this is something that they could support.”
Spruill also said she had talked to restaurateurs about the law, with six signing a letter of support on Oct. 1.
In response to a question from Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Spruill said Starkville would be the first city in Mississippi to have legislation permitting dogs on patios passed for it, should it succeed in the Legislature. She also said she had talked to the Mississippi Municipal League, who said they could conceivably support the measure.
The measure will be handled as a local and private, meaning it will only apply to Starkville.
Democratic Rep. Cheikh Taylor voiced his support. However, he emphasized the importance of local business owners being able to decide on their own whether to allow dogs.
“I’m a dog lover,” Taylor said. “I’m a pet lover. Especially in our downtown area and things of that nature it’s an opportunity for people to have a more rich environment.”
Taylor also said business owners who chose to allow dogs on their patios would be attracting an audience agreeable to having pets at the place of business.
“When city government approaches me about things like that, I am usually very cooperative and agreeable, and I think in this instance I am still that same way,” Taylor said.
Republican Rep. Rob Roberson also voiced his support. He said it shouldn’t be up to the government to decide whether businesses can choose to allow dogs on their patios.
“It wouldn’t force any restaurant to allow dogs on the patio, but it would allow them to do it, because right now it’s considered a health department hazard even on the patio unless it was a service dog,” Roberson said. “The thought is that it would be a local and private that will allow Starkville to allow restaurants if they wanted to, to allow dogs on their patio.”
Roberson said the legislation was a great idea.
“If a restaurant that has a patio wants to allow animals out there, I think the government needs to stay out of their way and allow them to run their business how they want to run it," he said.
Restaurateur Ty Thames, who owns Bin 612, Restaurant Tyler and The Guest Room was one of those who signed the letter of support. He said Bin 612’s patio had long been dog friendly.
“We kind of encourage that community neighborhood feel, where you come out and eat or drink and bring your family and your dog and what not,” Thames said. “We’re in support of that, and hopefully it brings more to the community.”
The proposed change would not have any effect on current laws allowing service animals into establishments.