ORLANDO, Fla. – The owners of a downtown Orlando bar say they are confused after state health inspectors gave conflicting reports on whether dogs can accompany their customers inside.
Pup’s Pub opened in July.
“Pup’s Pub is an off-the-leash dog park bar,” said co-owner Alex Wright. “The dogs actually have memberships. We call them VIPs — very important pups.”
Wright said the dogs that come to visit need to be vaccinated, spayed or neutered and well-behaved in order to play and use the state-of-the-art “flushing system” that is installed underneath the artificial turf.
He and co-owners Sheila Suhar and Trevor Tackett received $100,000 in a city of Orlando Community Redevelopment Assistance grant to fix up the building they were moving into near the corner of North Orange Avenue and Robinson Street.
An initial inspection from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County earned them a “satisfactory” result.
That changed shortly after opening for business.
“We opened up Pandora’s Box,” Wright said. “We didn’t mean to, but now, that’s happening.”
In July, an FDOH inspector graded Pup’s Pub as “unsatisfactory” for violating a state code that says, “live animals shall not be allowed.”
The inspector served the owners with a cease-and-desist order telling them to stop allowing dogs inside.
“We were really just in shock,” Wright said. “We would have to refund all that membership revenue, and that alone would bankrupt us. I would lose my best friend’s (Tackett) money, I would lose our money and our house. I mean, we put everything into this.”
He said the inspection results confused them.
“It really didn’t make any sense,” he said. “The exact same concept of Pup’s Pub was open in Tampa for almost two years prior. We’ve passed three health inspections with the Department of Health.”
News 6 investigated that, and he’s right.
According to FDOH records, inspectors gave their original Tampa location, which opened during the pandemic, a “satisfactory” rating several times.
The inspector noted on the first inspection they needed to “install a gate at the bar area before dogs are allowed inside the building.”
A competing bar that also allows dogs inside received several “satisfactory” ratings, as well.
Those same records show after the Pup’s Pub Orlando location failed their inspection in July, the Tampa locations started failing theirs, too.
News 6 asked FDOH to explain the change.
A spokesperson said they could not answer because the case against Pup’s Pub was still open. Wright is asking for a variance, or an exception, that would allow the dogs to stay.
“We’re not asking for a lot,” Wright said. “Let’s get this variance approved while we work with the Department of Health on drafting a new code to properly regulate dog bar concepts moving forward.”
FDOH responded to Wright’s variance request by asking for more details about sanitization and the “flushing system” under the floor.
He said they are in the process of responding while hoping to stay open and keep his workers employed.
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