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Only 12 restaurants in Salt Lake County can legally allow dogs on their outdoor patios.

Which raises the question: Why aren't more eateries in this dog-loving community applying for Salt Lake County Health Department's 3-year-old "paws on the patio" variance?

"Lack of awareness," said department spokesman Nicholas Rupp.

Some restaurants "allow dogs without the variance," he said, which violates state and county health rules. Others "don't know allowing dogs is even an option."

Under the state health code, pets are banned from common eating areas, but local health departments are allowed to grant exceptions. The Salt Lake County Board of Health changed its food sanitation rules several years ago to allow dogs on outdoor patios if restaurants meet certain requirements.

Campfire Lounge in Salt Lake City was the first business to apply and receive the variance in 2015. By summer 2016, nine more restaurants were granted variances.

In 2017, California Pizza Kitchen in Murray and Fisher Brewing in Salt Lake City have been added to the list.

Getting the variance made sense for Todd and Kristine Gardiner, co-owners of the three Taqueria 27 restaurants. Their restaurants are in mostly walkable or residential areas in downtown Salt Lake City, on Foothill Boulevard (also in Salt Lake) and in Holladay.

"People like to take a walk and come down for dinner with their dogs," Kristine Gardiner said. "It's a great draw for us."

Gardiner said following the health department requirements are easy, but applying for the variance — which requires writing and submitting a detailed health plan — can be intimidating.

"When you're running a restaurant, you might not have time to go through the long process," she said.

Among the requirements that restaurants must follow:

• Post signs so patrons know that dogs may be on the premises.

• Have an outdoor entrance so dogs don't go through interior dining areas.

• Clean the patio every six hours or whenever there is a shift change, using animal-friendly products.

• Clean and sanitize "accidents" within 5 minutes.

Dog owners have responsibilities, too:

• Pets must remain on leash and have collars with current license and rabies tag.

• No dogs allowed on tables or chairs.

• Dogs may not have contact with any dishes or utensils.

Restaurants can give pets water in disposable containers, but the animals may not eat food — including dog food or treats — while on the restaurant patio.

The variance, which has an initial $315 fee, is good for one year, and establishments in good standing can renew annually for $100, Rupp said.

When the county started the program, the initial fee was $350, but the cost dropped this year because "it takes staff less time to complete a review and site check than it did when we first introduced the program," Rupp said.

As the weather gets warmer, the department is trying to get the word out to restaurants and cafes with outdoor eating areas that they need to apply for a variance to allow dogs on the patio.

"We support business that make this choice," added Jeff Oaks, the department's food protection bureau manager, "and our goal is to ensure they do so with cleanliness and safety in mind."

Paws on the Patios

Twelve restaurants in Salt Lake County have met health department requirements to have dogs on their outdoor patio:

California Pizza Kitchen • 6227 S. State St., Murray

Campfire Lounge • 837 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City

Eggs in the City • 1675 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City

Fisher Brewing Co. • 320 W. 800 South, Salt Lake City

Flatbread • 2121 S. McClelland St., Salt Lake City

Log Haven • 6451 Millcreek Canyon Road, East Millcreek

Pig and a Jelly Jar • 401 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City

Taqueria 27 (3 locations) • 149 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City; 1615 S. Foothill Blvd, Salt Lake City; and 4670 S. Holladay Blvd., Holladay

Uinta Brewing Co. • 1722 S. Fremont Drive, Salt Lake City

Wasatch Brew Pub • 2110 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City