PARK SLOPE — A Fido-friendly bar has been forced to ban dogs after it was fined by the city, but the owner is vowing to fight the canine crackdown.
The Gate, on Fifth Avenue and Third Street, has welcomed dogs since it opened in 1997, but owner Bobby Gagnon says he's never run into trouble with the city over his pro-pups policy.
That changed last Tuesday night when a city inspector visited the bar to investigate a 311 complaint about dogs in the facility, Gagnon said. The inspector issued a fine for allowing animals into the bar for an unspecified dollar amount — Gagnon will find out how much at a Nov. 18 hearing.
The city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Fearful that he would rack up even more fines if he didn't immediately comply, Gagnon posted a "sorry no dogs" notice on The Gate's front door. The sudden reversal, first reported by Park Slope Stoop, has pet-owning booze hounds barking mad.
"What did the dogs ever do to anyone?" wrote one supporter on The Gate's Facebook page. "The Gate always had rules set up to make sure everyone was happy, healthy and safe. It's hard to comprehend that dogs are the worst problem the health department can find these days. Dogs cannot contract Ebola."
City law prohibits pet dogs in "food service establishments," but Gagnon argues that The Gate shouldn't be lumped into the same category as restaurants because it doesn't have a kitchen and doesn't serve food.
The Gate earned an "A" on its last inspection by the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in January 2014. Dogs weren't mentioned in any of The Gate's previous inspections, which date back to 2011, when the city started its restaurant grading system.
While The Gate has always welcomed dogs, they don't roam free. Customers must keep their four-legged friends on a leash and at their side at all times, Gagnon said.
Dogs are an important part of the bar's culture, and The Gate's unofficial mascot is a mutt named Walter, who was found near death and nursed back to health by a bar regular. The Gate hosted benefits to help pay for the vet bills, and has helped raise money over the years for a number of animal-related groups, including Charles Henderson Animal Rescue, Park Slope For Pets, and Foster Dogs NYC, Gagnon said.
He's hoping to collect statements of support from some of those groups and present them to the city at the Nov. 18 hearing in front of the city's Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.
“When we opened it was like a no man's land on Fifth Avenue, and we just wanted to be a community pub,” Gagnon said. “A person walking in with a dog makes total sense to me and it doesn’t make any sense to the Health Department…There seems to be a bit of an inane quality to that regulation.”