Salty Dog Cafe - Hilton Head Island, SC


Why “No Dogs Allowed” at The Salty Dog Cafe?

We love dogs at The Salty Dog Cafe and welcomed them when we first opened in 1987. Lots of people came to see us and many of them brought their dogs. Lunch with Fido. Life was good – or so it seemed. If everyone had brought small breeds, then perhaps our current policy would not be necessary. But, along with the Poodles came German Shepherds, Dobermans, Labradors, Rottweilers, and Golden Retrievers. On any given day there were a dozen (or more) dogs at The Salty Dog Cafe. Allow several dogs of any variety in close proximity to each other, add children with cheeseburgers and ice cream cones, then throw in a margarita for the dog owners and the problems would begin. Dogs frequently urinated on the tables and chairs. Ooooops! Occasionally a dog would poop on the deck. Owners would allow their dogs to lie in the walkways. Dogs ate off of forks and out of our plates. Some dogs barked almost continually. Others begged for food and stole hot dogs from little kids. It would be no exaggeration to say that many of the dog owners failed to control their pets. So, ultimately the good dog owners suffered from the actions of the bad dog owners and we posted the “No Dogs Allowed” signs. Why? Because we feel that we have a responsibility to provide our customers with a clean, peaceful and safe place to dine. We do not feel that it is our responsibility to police the dog situation – or to clean up after dogs or to referee dog fights. I’m uncertain if you have ever witnessed the utter chaos that occurs when 2 dogs suddenly decide to kill each other in a crowded environment such as The Salty Dog Cafe, but it can get really ugly. So, being fully aware of the consequences, we no longer wish to subject ourselves to the disruption to the business or the presumed liability.

And in all fairness, our policy is not just limited to dogs, but extends to all animals, including pythons, cockatoos, and monkeys, all of which have accompanied their owners to The Salty Dog Cafe. And, without exception, these owners questioned our reasoning for not welcoming their companions to our restaurant. Which brings us to the heart of the matter. The Salty Dog Cafe is – first and foremost – a restaurant. And as our advertisements state: a restaurant for humans. Dogs are not allowed at the majority of restaurants (with the exception of service animals), but according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, their agency places no restrictions on dogs in the dining areas of restaurants. (Many State Health Departments prohibit dogs, but others, such as South Carolina, allow the restaurant owner to decide). So, why are dogs not allowed in the overwhelming majority of restaurants? Presumably for many of the same reasons that we do not allow dogs at The Salty Dog Cafe. Our policy also extends to our outside tables because, in essence, our outside seating is part of our dining room. This outside dining area also includes the picnic tables. We tried the concept of allowing dogs at the picnic tables as recently as a few years ago. We felt that it was time to relax our policy a bit, so we decided to give it another go. However, it didn’t take long to realize that it was not going to work for the same old reasons; dogs on the tables, dog fights, dogs relieving themselves. Other than this brief period, the decision not to allow dogs at The Salty Dog Cafe is long standing; dating back to 1989. Our reasoning comes, in part, from the old adage “there are no bad dogs, just bad dog owners.” And generically speaking “everyone loves dogs, but not everyone loves your dog.” And while we sincerely apologize to the good dog owners, it’s the bad dog owners who have backed us into this corner.

We do allow leashed dogs to visit and walk across our property, however, some dog owners still neglect to use a leash. This occurs almost daily at South Beach. If we ask these owners to please leash their dog; then we are the bad guys. Amazingly, despite the scoop law, we regularly have to clean up dog poop. And customers and employees have been bitten – the latest when an employee was nipped by an unruly dog last year. So unfortunately, allowing dogs onto our property is no cake walk.

Over the past 20 years we have received many letters, phone calls and personal contacts from dog owners who have questioned our position on dogs at The Salty Dog Cafe. Some have the opinion that since we are The Salty Dog Cafe, then we are somehow obligated to allow dogs. On the other hand, many of our customers are dog owners and they understand and support our policy. Just as the majority of restaurant customers do not want to dine near someone who is smoking, it appears that the majority of customers do not want to dine with dogs sitting beside them. (see surveys below)

     In closing, we doubt that we will change our policy anytime soon. We’re sorry; we tried to make it work on two different occasions, but to no avail. So, we will continue to try and do the best job that we can in operating a restaurant for humans. We hope that you will join us.