America the Messy Yard Police State

Iguana Mack's battling to keep dogs on patio

Don't these government terrorists have anything useful to do?


Iguana Mack's battling to keep dogs on patio

Hayley Ringle, Tribune

April 8, 2010 - 11:25AM

Customers and staff of a popular Chandler restaurant known for its dog-friendly patio, dog events and doggie dishes are barking foul after a county health inspector warned them their pets are not allowed on the patio.

Iguana Mack’s Arizona Roadhouse, a full-service restaurant, has allowed dogs with leashes and their owners to eat on their 100-seat patio since it opened in September 2002, as long as the dogs are up to date on vaccinations and leave by 10 p.m. before the place gets too crowded, said Alyssa Abraham, the restaurant’s marketing director. She is starting a blog and holding a meeting to try and get some sort of waiver or a policy change to allow Iguana Mack’s to continue hosting dogs on its patio.

“We want to fight this and see what we can do to change it,” said Abraham, who has brought her own 7-year-old cocker spaniel named Princess or Beast, depending on the day, to the restaurant. “We don’t like being told how to run our business.”

A Maricopa County Environmental Health Division inspector told the restaurant in March dogs were not allowed. The department was making a special inspection after receiving a complaint.

Animals are not allowed, except for service animals, if food or drinks are being served by waiters. However, if the food is take-out only, animals are allowed, said David Ludwig, an environmental health division manager.

“That’s always been the rule,” said Ludwig, who has worked at the department for 31 years.

The restaurant is also on a six-month probation that began in February after receiving the same critical violations on three separate inspections for not properly cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces and utensils, Ludwig said. The violation is not related to animals on the patio, and the restaurant has not been fined for any animal-related issue, according to the health department.

Despite the rule, dog owners have regularly held their dog birthday parties and puppy showers at Iguana Mack’s, and the restaurant has hosted Howl-o-ween costume contests, Santa Paws photos and the annual Roadhouse Run non-competitive fun run/walk event. The restaurant has also donated about $4,000 to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, and hosted pet adoptions outside the restaurant.

On the large patio which wraps around the front and side of the restaurant, dogs could dine on a special chicken, rice and carrot dish, and on special occasions drink doggie beer and eat bone-shaped doggie meatballs.

Iguana Mack’s is owned by Mike and Chrissy Lopercio, who also own RigaTony’s Italian restaurant, which recently moved from Chandler to Tempe.

Abraham said the dogs on the patio have never been an issue before, and said the no-dog policy is discrimination because it’s not enforced fully at other similar restaurants where she has seen dogs. She also said the restaurant is losing business, at least $1,000 a week, because of the no-dog policy.

The health code is in place because of concerns of animals urinating or defecating, servers touching animals while also serving food and possible dog fights, Ludwig said.

“A lot of us are big pet fans, but I think there’s a way to do it properly where food is not being directly served,” Ludwig said.

Abraham said the restaurant’s managers are not interested in changing the patio to take-out only because it wouldn’t be fair to the other customers without dogs. “That’s not the way we do business,” Abraham said.

Jerry van West and his wife, Patty, frequently dined at Iguana Mack’s with their dogs, Pippin and Patrick. They chose the restaurant because it’s dog friendly and they enjoy sitting with their furry kids on the patio. The couple have no children, and consider their dogs part of the family.

Van West, who is also fighting with the Chandler City Council over a possible closure of the Shawnee Bark Park after resident noise complaints, said the health code no-animal rule is just another way dog owners are being discriminated against. He also doesn’t understand why there is an exception for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) approved service animals.

“This is yet another example of government control and private enterprise,” said van West, 45, of Chandler. “We want what’s best for our animals. It’s just unfortunate another restriction is being put down against dog owners.”

Patrons who want to bring dogs back to Iguana Mack’s are invited to a meeting 2 p.m. April 24 at the restaurant, 1371 N. Alma School Road, Chandler. A dog blog was also started on the issue, at Information: (480) 855-3884.


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