Along with the warmer weather, Spencer Berge, a manager of the Five West Kitchen + Bar, has noticed a particular kind of patron showing up at the Rochester eatery: Dog lovers and their pets.
Five West is one of small but growing number of dog-friendly Rochester establishments that have opened their patio areas to customers and their pets.
“I think the trend will start to pick up, once people are aware of it,” Berge says. “A lot of people don’t know about it.”
Whether it makes business sense or more restaurants are owned by dog lovers, the trend appears to be making a paw-hold in the Rochester dining scene.
In the case of Five West and the Loop, the dog-friendly patio policy derives from the fact that the owners — Todd Jensen, Ryan Brevig, Derek Link, Josh Paulson and John Buck — are dog lovers. The downtown Loop earlier this year hosted the annual benefit for Paws and Claws Humane Society.
Wildwood Sports Bar & Grill and Forager Brewing Company also have such policies. In return for opening their patios to pets, the restaurants ask that the dogs be well-behaved and the owners have them on leashes.
Austin Jevne, a co-owner of Forager and its head brewer, says the policy is consistent with the kind of neighborhood-friendly place the owners wanted to create when they opened Forager.
“Our connection to our neighborhoods around us is a lot more friendly for them,” Jevne says. “It’s like, ‘We’re taking our dog for a walk. Let’s stop by Forager. We can sit on the patio, enjoy an appetizer, a beer, a conversation, a little live music.’ We really wanted to focus on that.”
Jevne says such policies are popular among breweries that he has visited around the country. Such places in California, Maine, Colorado and Texas all have a welcoming attitude toward pet owners and their dogs.
Growing up in Madison, Wis., Jevne says he often felt free to take his two dogs anywhere in the college town. So the “no dogs allowed” restrictions that he encountered at many Rochester establishments was “kind of surprising.”
“I wasn’t able to take them anywhere in town, so if I want to take them for a walk and stop at a local establishment, I pretty much couldn’t do that here,” says Jevne.
He adds the policy makes good business sense and reflects the dog-loving of the owners and the employees, many of whom own pets.
“We never wanted Forager to be just for people who liked beer. We wanted to be a place that really can bring anyone in the community here and let them be comfortable,” say Jevne.