In Business & Trade by Clyde Mooney

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As NSW ponders whether to loosen laws on dog-friendly areas in pubs, Dan O’Hara’s Collector Hotel at Parramatta is embracing fur-babies with its new weekend Yappy Hour.

The Collector is a down-town pub in Sydney’s second CBD, Parramatta, and appropriately caters to hordes of office workers and after-workers throughout the week.

Like the Sydney CBD, the business district streets are less populated on the weekends, although Parramatta has a rapidly growing population and proliferation of city-fringe apartment residences under construction.

This has prompted the O’Haras to introduce a dog-friendly element to the pub, between two and six both Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The logic is that dogs are both man’s best friend and for many people part of the family, so taking family-friendly to a new four-legged level, the Collector hopes to get more locals to the pubs with their ‘mates’.

“I came up with the idea because there aren’t many places you can catch up with friends and take your dog, besides a park,” says Victoria Dennis, Collector function manager and owner of Biggie, the unofficial mascot of Yappy Hour.

“It’s a great way to include dogs when you are having a drink with friends, and I must admit Biggie loves the doggie beer.”

Beyond the usual collective water bowl, canines can enjoy a drop of Beerdog’s Bitter, or a puppacino.

The light-hearted promotion hopes to capitalise on the social nature of dog owners – a notion that sparked an investigation in April on allowing dogs greater access in pubs.

In much of the world, particularly the UK, dogs are widely permitted within establishments, but in NSW the Food Act 2003 prohibits live animals in areas “in which food is handled”.

This includes drinks, making all indoor areas of pubs and cafes out of bounds.

Outdoor areas that can be accessed without going inside are permissible, and assistance animals are exempt from the law.

Currently, fines up to $880 can be issued for breaching the Act.

The proliferation of on-trend businesses welcoming furry friends, particularly in the inner west, prompted hundreds of responses to the government investigation, the vast majority reportedly in favour of letting the operators of the pubs decide if dogs are allowed.

A Bill is to be debated in parliament, but Greens MP Jamie Parker, introducing the Bill, believes it should be seen as merely an extension of the existing owners’ discretion for outdoor areas.