ASHEVILLE – Restaurants and bars expect an increase in customers in the warmer season months that include two- and four-legged guests.
In the Asheville area, there are places designed with dogs in mind first with many other human-centric establishments taking extra measures to enhance the guest experience for those with and without fur.
The COVID-19 pandemic motivated more restaurants to open their patios and make accommodations for dogs and their owners, said Jessica Chipriano, lead category manager at BringFido, a pet travel resource and lifestyle brand website and app founded in 2006.
“So many more have created outdoor seating if they didn’t have it before and new places that are opening are making sure they have some kind of outdoor seating,” she said. “Usually, for the majority, they allow the dogs because it’s outside and, of course, dogs aren’t allowed inside because of the health regulations of the food being prepared in there.”
BringFido provides information about dog-friendly restaurants, events, hotels and emergency and nonemergency services convenient for travelers.
“We help people traveling with their dogs find accommodations as well as pet-friendly places and activities to bring them,” Chipriano said.
BringFido reported 166 pet-friendly restaurants listed in Asheville. Also, there has been an increasing trend of dog-park style bars across the US, particularly in recent years, Chipriano said.
Last year: Answer Man: Dogs allowed at outdoor restaurants?
In Weaverville, Wagbar offers a 25,000-square-foot outdoor space for dogs to run off-leash and play with other guests at 320 Merrimon Ave., just outside of Asheville. The membership-based business requires dogs to have updated vaccination records and good behavior.
“It’s really become a destination,” said Kajur Kulp, Wagbar co-founder. “We have members from 48 states who’ve joined Wagbar who’ve been traveling or have second homes.”
The facility also offers snacks and beer, wine and a nonalcoholic beverage bar for dog owners. But it’s the upbeat environment, service and safety guidelines that members said to be the most attractive features, he said. Wagbar also is a draw because it allows the dogs to relax and run free.
Wagbar is planning to offer franchise opportunities nationwide later this year because the demand has been so high, Kulp said.
From 2020: Go ahead, let the dogs out: Wagbar dog park and bar opens in Weaverville
Asheville is an ideal place for dogs since so many restaurants and bars have outdoor seating areas, said Travis Moore, general manager at Mayfel’s, a Louisiana-style restaurant at 22 College St. in downtown. The restaurant has a five-bone rating on BringFido.com.
BringFido allows users to provide feedback about how dog-friendly a business is using a five-bone rating system and written reviews.
The majority of reviews comment on dogs receiving water bowls, patio size and the attention given by the server, Chipriano said.
“The number one thing our users seem to love is if a restaurant has a dog menu – specialty items catered just to the dog,” Chipriano said. “People also look for where the outdoor seating is covered for shade or somehow temperature regulated like they’ll have ceiling fans or patio seating or something that makes everybody comfortable.”
The locally-sourced dog treats and ambiance are contributors to making places like Mayfel’s high-ranking places for canine customers and their owners.
“We offer dog biscuits and dog bowls for water,” Moore said. “It’s right across the street from a park so the scenery is pretty decent.”
The front patio has a plastic enclosure to protect humans and pups from the elements. The seasonal courtyard is another outdoor hangout, though access is dependent on weather and staffing, he said.
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Large patios are popular so dogs can be distanced from other dogs and people, Chipriano said.
Universal Joint, 784 Haywood Road, offers a spacious patio with 16 tables, plus dishes that humans and dogs both enjoy.
“It’s a pretty big patio and it’s shaded and we’re always taking good care of dogs,” said Angus Kovitch, general manager of the West Asheville restaurant. “We offer them water. … We have a doggy burger on our menu if you want to get a burger for your dog.”
The doggy burger is an off-menu item available by request. It’s a regular burger patty served without the bun or toppings, offered at a discounted price.
“It’s not really on the menu but we’ve offered it for so long that a lot of the regulars and older people who’ve been coming here for years know there’s a button for it on the computer for a dog burger,” Kovitch said .
Universal Joint also earned a five-bone rating from canine critics for their food, drinks and dog hospitality.
“Asheville is definitely more dog-friendly than other cities I’ve visited,” Kulp said. “It’s becoming a trend across the country for bars to want to allow dogs to visit but I don’t think it’s nearly as powerful a movement as in Asheville.”
Several other five-boned rated eateries and watering holes are Catawba Brewing Co., Green Man Brewery, Hi-Wire Brewing, Sunny Point Café, The Cantina, The Funkatorium and Well-Bred Bakery and Café.
For BringFido’s complete list and reviews for dog-friendly restaurants in Asheville, visit bringfido.com.
Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.