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Dog days at Durango dining venues

11th Street Station, although it loves your dog, does not allow it into the seating area. (Action Line)

Dear Action Line: Why are dogs not allowed in most restaurant/bar outdoor seating areas in Durango? Most mountain towns allow dogs in outdoor spaces and welcome them (and their responsible owners) as part of the community. I heard it was voted on by the City Council a few years ago. Still no bad dogs, just bad dog owners. – Kristopher Warner

Dear Kristopher: While it’s fair to blame City Council for many things – it’s done a terrible job bringing enough rain and snow to the area for several years, for example – in this case, you’ll have to take up your cause with restaurant owners.

The law is always changing, and dog owners got a big boost last year when the Colorado Legislature passed a bill making it much easier for restaurants to allow dogs in outdoor seating areas. In the past, eating establishments had to get a variance from their local health department; the 2020 bill (https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb20-078) made it so a variance was no longer needed.

So, it’s up to the restaurant owners whether they want to allow dogs. Not all of them are willing to abruptly change their decadeslong mindset that dogs and food aren’t a hygienic mix. Some of them maybe don’t want to deal with a “fecal event,” as referred to in health department vernacular. Local health departments can still enact their own regulations. San Juan Basin Public Health goes along with the state bill, applying a few rules that restaurants must follow, Chandler Griffin, the department’s communications officer, said in a prepared response.

For instance, a restaurant must have a separate entrance for dogs to the outdoor seating so they don’t pass through the retail food establishment. Also, dogs are all very special, but they still aren’t allowed on chairs. Nor on tables (and neither are your elbows – didn’t you listen to your mother?).

The outdoor dining area can’t be used for food or drink preparation. However, if you ask nicely, a waiter/waitress can refill your glass from a pitcher or “other container,” whatever that might be.

The pet must be on a leash and kept under control. If a dog gets unruly, or starts demanding a piece of pan-seared, garlic- and herb-infused filet mignon from a neighboring table, then the pet owner has a problem.

Local restaurant owners and staff members recently have had serious discussions about whether to allow dogs and how to go about it, said Dave Woodruff, president of the Durango chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association. El Moro Tavern, which he owns, has a bump-out on Main Avenue where dogs are allowed.

Guide dogs, incidentally, are a different case, and are allowed at all “public accommodations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Steve Barkley, code enforcement officer with the city of Durango.

Dear Action Line: We just received notice of an “emergency repair project” that La Plata Electric Association is doing on Hillcrest Drive. Is this a joke? The city literally had Hillcrest Drive closed over the last three weeks to resurface the whole street. Since this Monday (July 26), it is literally almost a brand new street. How would the city allow LPEA to dig up the street and not tell them, “Hey, maybe do that whole digging up the street before we completely repair the whole street.” – Jason

Dear Jason: Yeah, how frustrating is that? It’d be like digging up the yard to find the sprinkler leak, making the complicated repair, filling in the hole, reseeding the area, and then watching a day or two later as the same leak developed.

At that point you just decide it’s better to dig up the entire yard and xeriscape the whole thing and save future headaches, plus conserve the water that will just keep getting more expensive and more precious as the years go past and the drought worsens and we all begin to turn on our neighbors, and …

Did Action Line just get sidetracked?

Um, where are we?

Oh yeah, the Hillcrest Drive question.

Well, unfortunately, LPEA’s problem there was diagnosed after the street was finished. A letter to Hillcrest Drive dwellers from the electric co-op said:

“LPEA will be conducting an emergency repair project on Hillcrest Drive to fix a faulty underground power line. Once completed, this work will increase the reliability of your electric service, decreasing the outages and blinks that have been impacting the area.”

Mike Somsen, street superintendent for the city of Durango, wasn’t ecstatic either. But these things happen, he said.

“As the notification states, it is ‘an emergency repair,’” he told Action Line. “We do coordinate and work closely with external and internal utilities before resurfacing a street. Unfortunately, pipes break and electric lines fail without warning and must be repaired. It is not the utilities’ fault. They try to be as proactive as possible and replace any known problems ahead of street resurfacing projects.”

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Of course, xeriscaping is no panacea: You still have to weed.