In Depth Conversation with City Councilman Tim Nelson On Allowing Dogs on Patios
In Depth Conversation with City Councilman Tim Nelson On Allowing Dogs on Patios
Show Notes & Links:
- Cast your vote in our survey on allowing dogs on restaurant patios
- City Council Discussion on Ordinance to Allow Dogs on Patios (video & notes)
- Tim Nelson on Facebook
- Tim Nelson on Twitter
- Frisco City Council Schedule
- Coffee n Cream
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco on:
Scott: Welcome to the First Go podcast. I’m your host, Scott Ellis, and this week, city councilman Tim Nelson joins us, to talk about pooches on the patio. All right, Tim, welcome to the show. Good to have you back.
Tim: Pleasure to be here.
Scott: So, we are going to talk a little bit about dogs today. There has been a proposal, in Frisco, to allow dogs on restaurant patios, and for everyone’s benefit, if you want to weigh in on this issue, we do have an ongoing survey, that is going to be going on for a little while longer, at LifestyleFrisco.com/survey. The current one is about this issue.
Tell us what’s going on there, and what are your thoughts on allowing dogs on restaurant patios?
Tim: Sure. Well thanks, Scott, I appreciate it very much. It was good to be with you. First I might add, just to your comments, if you want the comments that people may submit to Lifestyle Frisco, you might want to also copy Health@FriscoTexas.gov, because the city is trying to gather as much input as well. If you just add another line in your 2-line, we’ll be able to get those results as well, and it will be factored into our decision, I think, at the council level.
In regards to the issue as a whole, you know what, I think the city continues to grow. I think we continue to try to look at the demands, and the requests, of the people of the city, and we try to make decisions accordingly. In this particular case, this is an issue that’s been brought up, actually a year ago now. We’ve had an opportunity for businesses, members of the chamber of commerce to weigh in on it, there was about 1,100-1,150 emails that went out, or surveys that went out.
Unfortunately, there’s only a small number of responses to it, but there’s been an active desire to gain feedback on this issue in order to make sure that the will of the people is heard, and we can adjust accordingly.
Scott: Okay. What is the sense, so far, about how businesses feel about the issue? Can you weigh in a little bit on which direction they’re leaning a little bit?
Tim: Sure. Based on the survey results from last year, this is last summer anyway, a majority of the businesses are in favor of that. However, we’re specifically talking about dogs on patios of restaurants. Of all the respondents, only one was a restaurant owner, interestingly enough, that one business owner was not in favor of it, surprisingly enough. It wasn’t a clear majority, it was just barely over 50% for, versus against.
Scott: Okay, that’s good to know. One of the questions I think people have, is as with anything, this is not a black and white issue, so if people were saying “Yes, I’m for it, but-” and the responses we’ve gotten have been around reasonable, what we call reasonable restrictions. What kinds of things are you guys thinking about in that direction if this were to go forward?
Tim: Sure, and I will tell you, just for transparency purposes, I’ve been very much a “No” guy to this. I’ve not been in favor of this, and for a lot of reasons. A lot of them personal. We talk about our first hand experiences in life, and how they shape how we think and how we view the world. I’ve got 3 members of my family that have allergies to dogs, and as much as I love dogs, and to spend time with them, I would not want to be at a place where we’re enjoying a meal, then all of the sudden a dog sits down next to us, and the family is experiencing allergic reactions, or fear to dogs, and things like that.
Our health department really pushed forward these potential changes to our ordinance, and it really got me to think. I think through reasonable restrictions, and reasonable controls, I think we can get to the happy medium. Where those that maybe have allergies, or those that maybe have fear of dogs or whatever, can live in a “Kumbaya” situation with those that would love to have “man’s best friend” there at the table with them.
Scott: Is it likely we would end up in a situation where, even on patios, you might have restricted areas where just no dogs are allowed over there, or are we not going to go down that path yet? Kind of like they used to do with smoking, once upon a time.
Tim: Sure. I have seen some feedback from some individuals that has requested exactly that kind of thing. I try to put it to the reasonable person test, and most of the patios are just not large enough to allow for something like that. What I would hate to do, is restrict a business that has a smaller patio, from not being allowed to have dogs at all. As you can tell, based on that kind of a statement, I’m definitely leaning towards being in favor of this.
Really what it comes down to, is just reasonable controls, and reasonable constrictions, such as you mentioned.
Scott: Okay, so I’m going to back up a little bit, because I think, maybe I may have misheard you earlier, or maybe something is changed, but I thought you said originally you were “No”, on this-
Tim: Very much so.
Scott: But now you’re saying that, with reasonable restrictions, you would be in favor?
Tim: Yeah, and when we talked about this at the last city council meeting, I tried to express that as clearly as possible. Again, very much in a “No” position, and for some of the reasons I just discussed. The ordinance, the changes in the ordinance that have been put forward are just that, they’re reasonable.
I think that as, a person like me who is normally against something like this, when I look through it, I say “You know what, this makes sense. I can live with that.” And what it really comes down to is, I think we need to make sure that there is transparency, and a way for individuals who have fears, or have allergic reactions or things like that, to have clarity before they go into a business, right?
One of the things that’s been proposed is “Clear Signage”, right? The current proposal, as it exists right now, just suggests that there needs to be certain verbiage on the front door, and certain verbiage on the gate. I think there needs to be exact clarity on every door, every entrance to the restaurant, as well as the gates. I think that sign should have the same look and feel everywhere you go. If you’re someone that has a fear of dogs, you’re someone that has allergic reactions to dogs, you should know what to look for, you know?
Everyone knows what the general “No Smoking” sign looks like, it’s that cigarette with a red line, the circle with the red line through it. That’s a trigger for people, they know “Okay hey, this is a no smoking section.” I think we should have something similar to that, kind of indicates for those that maybe don’t want to sit on a patio with a dog, that they can see that sign, and every restaurant has that same sign. You just know right away, that “Hey, I’m going into an area that’s dog friendly”, and I can make a conscious decision whether or not I want to sit in that area.
Scott: Okay, that makes a lot of sense. What other types of things fall under reasonable restrictions? What sorts of things would you guys be considering to make people a little bit more comfortable with this if it goes forward, but also just to keep it under control?
Tim: Sure. There’s a health issue, obviously, first and foremost, and that’s why the state in general, the general rule is you can’t have dogs in restaurants. There’s ways for local municipalities to change that. In this particular case, I don’t know that I want dog dander, dog hair, anywhere near the kitchen where they’re preparing food, or they’re preparing drinks and things of that nature.
In this particular case, there would be restrictions from preparing food or preparing drinks on the patio with the dogs there. That does not stop, for instance, a server to come out with a pitcher of water and fill your water glass. That would still be okay, but mixing a drink, or making a plate table side, that would not be allowed on the patio.
Also, from a health perspective, there’s a cleanliness issue, right? Dogs may have to relieve themselves, at some point or another, and maybe they announce it to the world, maybe they don’t. In a situation like that, I think we’d want to make sure that there were cleanliness restrictions, that there are restrictions in how long that something like that could be left, and how it’s going to be cleaned.
I think in general, you would have to make sure that these areas were kept cleaner, over time, and that requires periodic cleaning throughout the day, to make sure that that area, that that pet hair, or dog hair, dander, and things of that nature, don’t gather. Because let’s face it, if you walk through that, that could then be tracked into the restaurant, right? So we need to keep these areas extra clean.
I think from a health perspective, those are the big things. Then there’s, let’s face it, I may not have a problem sitting on a patio with a dog, but that doesn’t mean that I want your dog at the other table joining me at my table, right? I think we need to make sure that the dog is under control. I think we need to make sure that there are limitations on how far that dog can leave the table, and so we’re working through that.
I’d like to give you a perfect example, in why I tabled this at our last meeting. There was a restriction in the ordinance, as it was proposed, that the dog had to be under positive control of the owner. Meaning, basically, the owner either had it in a kennel, had it in a bag, for maybe some of your smaller lap dogs, or was on a leash under positive control. I’ve held a dog leash, and if you think about a 50 or 60 pound dog or larger, if I’m holding that leash, and I’m trying to cut my steak, and that dog wants to go, that’s very difficult to control that dog.
If I’m eating a hamburger, I can’t imagine holding that leash in my hand the entire time. I said “You know, reasonably, I think that we could tether that animal for a limited period of time, as long as the owner’s there.” Why couldn’t you tie that dog down? It has a maybe a radius of 2 feet from the table, so it’s not necessarily introducing itself into someone else’s lunch.
It’s these types of things that we’re working through, to have a common sense approach, to allow those that want to have dogs there, that want to have their best friends there, to have that, but at the same time, we’re respecting the privacy and the opportunity for those to enjoy their lunch on a patio as well that don’t have a dog.
Scott: Okay, very good. The vote on this is coming up in May, along with the other elections, is that correct?
Tim: This will actually be decided. I predict it being decided at the first meeting in April.
Scott: Okay, so that’s coming up very soon, so if people want to get their voice out there, now is the time.
Tim: Now is the time.
Scott: Just to let you guys know.
Tim: Yeah. Our meeting, it should be on April … the first meeting in April will be the first Tuesday in April. I’m sorry I don’t have my calendar in front of me-
Scott: No, no, that’s okay. I guess, just so people understand, this is not an issue they’re going to go vote on at the polls. This is something that city council will decide. They are very much interested in feedback from the public. What you guys think, what you guys want to know, what your opinions are. That’s for us, part of why we’re doing the survey. Just to help corral and provide some of that information.
The survey is unformal, it is unofficial, but it is at least an opportunity for us to gather some information, so I’m going to throw that out there one more time. It’s LifestyleFrisco.com/survey. That’ll be up through the end of the week.
Tim: Those type of surveys actually mean a lot to me. I will share with you, interesting, some interesting results that we’ve seen to date. Those that email in, have a tendency to be against the ordinance, interestingly enough. Those that are on social media, have a tendency to be very much in favor of it. So all I would say is, those that are in favor of it, you probably need to be sure you’re emailing your city officials as well, because they may only be getting one side of it.
I’ll monitor LifestyleFrisco. I’ll monitor Facebook. I’ll monitor those things, where I see almost an overwhelmingly vote in favor of it, where people are voicing their opinions. Of course there are those that are against it, but the emails, the direct emails that we are getting, it’s interesting, the direct emails are mostly against it.
Scott: Is that not common, though? When people are opposed to something, they tend to be more vocal, and take action on making sure that people know they’re opposed to it, whereas if you’re in support of something, it’s a little bit easier to be complacent about, being hopeful that will pass or go forward or what have you.
Tim: I think you characterize that well. That’s exactly why I want to make sure that when I’m making my final decision, and I’m looking through it, that I have a strong representation of those both sides. Again, that’s going to be a factor in my decision.
Scott: Well, that background noise reminds me that it’s a good time to stop, and let you guys know that we occasionally do our podcast on location. We like to get out into some local businesses. One, it’s a fun place to meet up, and it creates a little ambiance, which may or may not be the best thing at times, but we are today recording at Coffee and Cream, here at Legacy and El Dorado. If you guys haven’t stopped in, it’s a fantastic little coffee shop. It’s a great place for a meeting, and you know we are all about supporting local businesses.
Tim: Considering the hour, I’m glad that I have some coffee in front of me, to help me get through.
Scott: You and me both. Yeah, we’re doing this on an early Friday morning, so.
Okay, so is there anything else on the issue with the dogs that you want to make sure that we get out there, that we make it a point of, before, with that vote coming up so soon for you guys? For people to know about?
Tim: Sure. I would just say that, a lot of things are being considered. Some things that we haven’t even discussed yet, that I’ll mention in brief. We’ve talked about breeds of dogs. There’s some that would suggest that there’s certain breeds that are more dangerous than others, historically. Like pit bulls, and things of that nature. Part of the decision making process, is where do we restrict that.
There’s so many facets to this, and what I would really welcome those that are truly interested in this issue, as opposed to just a binary yes or no, because I think most people are yeses, but I think most people are yeses with restrictions. I’m really interested in thoughts on restrictions, that people would say “Hey, I’m okay with it, but I want to see X, Y, and Z.” It’s those types of things that I would really like to see.
Scott: Okay, well I know in the survey, we’ve got … if you happen to be in favor of this, with reasonable restrictions, that will open up another box that says, okay what are your ideas on those restrictions? You can fill that in there, and a lot of people have done that. We’ve gotten a huge variety of different things, that people are interested in. Once we close that survey out, I will definitely be providing all that information to city council, and we will be posting it on the site as well.
Tim: Yeah, and if I might add, I’d really like to send some special thanks out to a few people on the city staff. I’ve spent a lot of time meeting with Steve [Covington 00:13:22], who was our chief building officer. Julie Stallcup, who’s our environmental supervisor, and Mike Zapata, who’s our animal control manager. The 3 of them, we’ve spent hours in conference on this issue, talking about all types of things, and reasonable person perspectives on it.
The pros and cons of having dogs and food in the same place, and whether or not you can feed animals while on the patio. These are all things that have been taken into consideration. I really think that, should this pass, I think that it will be an ordinance that people will look at and say “You know what, that’s reasonable, and that makes sense.” And I think dog owners will say “Yes, I’m on board.”
I think some really good work has been put into this, by all.
Scott: Is there any place on the city council website, that people can go if they want to learn a little bit more, or is this really been just discussion, and the notes that you guys have? Is there information out there?
Tim: Sure. I will tell you the very first iteration of the ordinance is actually on the website, it may be in multiple places, but one place I know it would be, at the last city council meeting, if you go to the agenda section, and you look at the agenda for the second meeting in March, the city council meeting, and you go to item number 26. You scroll down to item number 26, and click on it. There will actually be some attachments. One is the proposed ordinance as it was at that time.
Now, based on input, it has been changing, but that has not been published yet, because they’re still working through that. Maybe by the time that this airs, the proposed version will be out there, but that will really allow individuals to look through the specific warning. Many people have seen bullet points on what this ordinance will look like, but the devil is in the details. Those 10 bullet points do not reflect the entire ordinance, and I think it’s really important.
Some of the things that are even prescribed are “What specific cleaning products would need to be used.” It’s very detailed, and it’s important that people understand, that ordinances are often times much more detailed. Just like the motor vehicle code, right? It may say you can go a certain speed, but there are a lot of details to it. I want people to be as informed as possible, and realize that there are a lot of details to this.
Scott: Okay. We’ll go out and find that, and link that up in the show notes for this podcast episode as well. That kind of wraps up the issue of us talking about dogs and restaurant patios, but while we’re here, while I’ve got you here, there’s another hot button issue in Frisco right now, that’s getting a lot of attention. Probably even more so, than this one, and that is the proposed ordinance to allow liquor sales, in Frisco.
I want to ask you about this, because Jeff mentioned this, recently when Jeff [Chaney 00:15:52] was on. We’ve got an upcoming episode, where I believe Bob Allen is going to join us to go into much more detail, but I want to get as much as the facts out there as possible, so that people understand when they go. This is an issue they’re going to vote on in May. What is it you’re voting for? If you vote yes, if you vote no, what does this actually mean? Because I think the language, as I’ve been told, at the voting booth is pretty generic, and not very clear.
Tim: It is. I think the majority of people in town, if they saw the language that’s going to be on the ballot, they’d be like “Sure, absolutely. Why wouldn’t I be in favor of this?” What it comes down to, and just to set the stage here, we live in a city right now where, if you want to go and partake in mixed beverages, or beer, or wine, you can find that at many of the restaurants within town. We do have private clubs within town, that have another name, a bar. Really what it comes down to is there are so many technical restrictions, or technical nuances here that we’re talking about.
For instance, most establishments that serve alcohol have to maintain a 51% or more sales in something else. That could be food, that could be raffle tickets, that could be shirts. It really doesn’t matter, but 51% of their sales has to be in something other than alcohol in order for them to maintain their TABC license. In order to be within the permitting process within the city of Frisco, there are those establishments that exceed that. They fall under the category of private clubs.
We have those. Those that are saying “Hey, I would love to have a local bar.” We have those. Some of those places that fall under that category are The Londoner, Frisco Bar, and I’m not necessarily suggesting, I need people to understand that there are differences within the town. If someone were to suggest, “Hey, I would love to have a local bar.” You can, and you can right now, there’s just a different permitting process, and a different process that they need to go through with the state, in order to have that.
Now, the liquor store sales, that’s a whole other category.
Scott: Yeah, so that’s really what we’re talking about when the vote comes up, is I think the language, and I won’t have this exactly right, but it’s something to the effect of, are you for liquor sales in Frisco, versus not for liquor sales in Frisco, which is why to your point, most people would say, again, “Sure. I’d like to have a drink. I want to go to [Stan’s 00:18:04], or wherever, I want to have a beverage. Of course I’m for liquor sales in Frisco.” But that’s not really what this particular ordinance is about.
Tim: Right. So let’s have a couple points of clarity on this. First of all, if you’re someone to vote against this proposal, Frisco as it is today would not change at all. Right? You’re still going to be able to go to Stan’s, you’re still going to be able to go wherever you want, and things will be exactly as they are today. So if you like things the way they are, you’re good to go, you can vote against it. The for vote, is really to expand liquor sales, right? To expand the ability for there to be private bars. To expand the ability to have liquor stores anywhere within the city.
This is probably the most important piece of this, that I think that the against movement is really coming from, is that if this ordinance passes, we don’t have the ability to limit or prohibit these establishments from places within our city. That’s important. I think that people that are in Frisco right now, enjoy the fact that we have good zoning, that we space our businesses and our residences and our churches and other types of businesses appropriately. I think most people are against a city such as Houston, where there’s just everything, everywhere.
What happens is, I think most of us want to maintain that local control, and what I mean local control is the voice and the will of the people. Right now, again, we do have bars. We do have restaurants that serve alcohol and liquor sales. The one thing we don’t have right now, is packaged liquor sales within the city, and I’ll tell you what, in all honesty, should this provision pass, this ballot proposition pass, or I’m sorry, fail, I still do see liquor sales in the city of Frisco within the foreseeable future, but I think it needs to be on the terms of the people, not on the terms of someone from outside the city that led this initiative.
Scott: Well that’s good to know, and that probably sounds like a whole other issue we could go into, and that is how the initiative came about, and how that was managed, but I think for now, we have a good picture of what’s going on. We’re going to continue to talk about this, and make sure that we’re getting the facts out there, so that people can make a decision for themselves on how this want to be handled. In general, I think we’re in the same boat. We’re certainly in favor or allowing other types of businesses, including liquor stores, to come here, as long as it is within a reasonable degree of control, and regulation.
I think a city like Plano has done a pretty good job.
Scott: We can look to some of the establishments there, that are great places to go into. If you want to shop for beer, wine, and liquor, they’ve got an incredible selection, and a shop like that in Frisco would certainly do no harm, but again, we don’t want those things just completely out of control, willy nilly, anybody can do anything, anywhere, anytime.
Tim: I think most of us have experience going into maybe some older cities, and looking around and seeing the proverbial liquor store in a run down area, and you’re just looking around going “Wow, how did this happen?” I think we want to do this smartly. That’s the key. I think we’ve had an opportunity, through some great leadership, through our city managers, through our past and current mayor, our past and current city council members, and really the voice of the people, to allow the city to be what it is today. I think the against vote, which I’m personally in favor of, the against vote, is to maintain that local control piece of it, and that’s really what this is about. It’s not really about the liquor sales, it’s really about maintaining local control.
Which, most people want. Most people want national politics, and state politics out of their backyard. They want to be able to control what happens in their backyard. Voting against it, would allow us to maintain control in our backyards.
Scott: All right, well Tim, thank you very much for joining us today. We really appreciate your time, and getting up so early to have a cup of coffee, and join me on the podcast.
Tim: Nothing like a good cup of joe. Appreciate you having me, Scott.
Scott: You bet. We’ll have you back on again soon, thanks again.
Tim: Take care.