The District's dogs and dog lovers had reason to celebrate Tuesday, when the D.C. Council unanimously decided to end a ban prohibiting canines from bar and restaurant patios.
For years, the ban went unenforced, and a host of dog-friendly bars and restaurants thrived in the increasingly young and affluent city.
But the health department began enforcing the ban in September, telling the owner at Midlands, a beer garden in Parkview, and Wonderland Ballroom in Columbia Heights that the pups on their patios had to go.
"It was really sad not having all those fuzzy faces around," said Midlands proprietor Peyton Sherwood, who received a visit from a city health inspector Sept. 19. "So today is really nice. It was awesome to see everyone working together to get this done so quickly."
His dog, Andypants — Midland's unofficial mascot — will be excited to return to his doghouse and friends on the patio, he added.
Health Committee Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) introduced emergency legislation to end the ban, which he called the most recent example of "regulatory overreach" on the part of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D). Gray's legislation, dubbed "Dining with Dogs Emergency Declaration," allows business owners to decide whether to allow dogs on their patios.
Gray, widely seen as a potential challenger to Bowser in 2018, said the health department should devote its resources to serious "health equity challenges," including its deeply troubled public hospital and widespread opioid crisis.
Following the vote, Bowser's office said it would update the regulations.
"We agree with our partners on the council that our residents and visitors — whether they have two or four legs — should be able to enjoy the patios in our great restaurants," Bowser spokeswoman Susana Castillo said.
A Twitter account, @PupsOnPatios, that had been created to advocate for the canines, celebrated the decision with puppy pictures and dog puns.
"The Dining with Dogs emergency legislation introduced in @councilofdc today leaves it up to DC restaurants & bars to decide whether to allow dogs on patios, while ensuring safety & sanitation," the account tweeted, with a picture of dogs on a dias. "We determine that to be pawesome."
Gray, who served one term as mayor and lost his reelection bid in the 2014 Democratic primary to Bowser, said the episode was the most recent in Bowser's "war on pets." He has also blocked the health department's efforts to ban backyard chickens and require licenses for cats.
The Bowser administration's health department is pursuing other frivolous regulation, Gray said. He pointed to a new rule by health officials that requires a lifeguard for private pools five feet deep or greater. Previously, the requirement was in place for pools six feet deep or more. More private pools will have to absorb the cost of hiring a lifeguard, Gray said.
In response, Gray and Council Member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) have introduced "Pools without Penalties Act of 2017," which reverses the health department regulation.