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The dogs may return to the Shawnee Brewery if the bill passes

Stella (front row, dog) has been a fixture in the Transport Brewery taproom since it opened in 2019. Photo by Leah Wankum.

Dogs could be readmitted inside the Transport Brewery in downtown Shawnee if a bill in Topeka supported by a local legislator passes.

Last summer, state regulators from the Kansas Department of Agriculture prohibited the brewery and others like it from having dogs inside its dining hall, deciding that the space fits the formal definition of an area of “food preparation”.

But a bill currently circulating in the Kansas House could change that.

The new restaurant rules prohibit dogs

  • In the past, non-service dogs could be allowed on the premises of businesses such as microbreweries.
  • The new rules that began to apply last year, however, link microbreweries, including those without on-site kitchens, with more traditional food establishments, such as restaurants and cafes.
  • Carriage owner Mike McVey says the new rules have been especially damaging to the Shawnee Brewery because drinking with dogs inside has been “part of our culture” since it opened in 2019.
  • “We had groups of people who came knowing they both would bring their dogs and they could both visit together, and their dogs could visit each other, like a play date,” McVey said, noting that those patrons don’t come any more.

A bill would allow the return of dogs

  • A new bill in the Kansas House would create a cut in food service rules by allowing microbreweries like Transport to allow dogs inside, with some restrictions.
  • Representative Laura Williams, a first-term Republican from Lenexa, introduced House Bill 2291 to the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development committee earlier this month.
  • She said when she was campaigning for her seat last year, a lot of people asked her about the new rule banning dogs and if she could do anything about it.
  • “I am a small business owner. My goal in getting elected…was to help remove barriers for small business owners and people looking to chase their dreams,” she said.

A recent hearing met with approval and opposition

  • Many committee members appeared supportive of the bill during a hearing last week.
  • Scott Schneider, of the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said the bill would be fine for microbreweries like Transport, where “you should be able to have a beer with your best friend.”
  • Kansas Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kelsey Olson, who oversees the state’s Division of Food Safety, objected on behalf of the entire department.
  • Olson said experts see dogs around food or drink as a “health risk” because of their hair loss, bathroom habits and the potential for them to have diseases that can be transmitted to people.

The owner of the carriage also testified in support of the bill

  • McVey said he supported the bill as part of his company’s defense of something called “Charlie’s Cause,” which is named after a boxer who used to frequent transportation but died shortly before the state began enforcing the ban on dogs last year.
  • After the new rules went into effect, she says she has been working to get them changed to allow dogs back into transport in Charlie’s name.
  • “[It’s] what we have adopted we need to do to make sure pooches like him have somewhere to come and socialize,” she said.

Keep digging: Watch the February 8 trade commission hearing. (HB 2291 is heard from the beginning of the video up to about 32 minutes).

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