One of the neat things I noticed in New York as I strolled around the Village was how people with dogs would eat at an outside table and hold their dogs on a leash as they ate. The owner would sit next to the little fence/barrier and the dog would sit on the outer side of the fence. Obviously the dog can’t sit inside the fence, right? This is because the NYC Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene (who knew there was such a thing as ‘mental hygiene’?) prohibits the presence of animals in any area where food is prepared or served.
Obviously the Health Dep’t doesn’t want rats and mice and cockroaches in these areas. But they also don’t want pets either, and a restaurant that allows the presence of pets in food service areas can get cited. Most pet owners understand this, which is why you see dog owners taking up positions at the tables next to the outer barriers.
But what about cat owners? I hadn’t really considered them until my friend and I were in the Village strolling past Senor Swanky’s when we saw a woman trying to get a table where she could eat with her kitty, who was inside a little ‘cat stroller’ like this one.
The greeter at Senor Swanky’s (a young college aged girl) had the vague notion that this was against policy and told the eager woman that she’d have to check with the manager. My friend and I, sensing a major news event in the making, decided to follow the greeter to overhear the conversation with the manager.
Okay, so remember, the manager has not seen the ‘cat stroller’ and doesn’t have the foggiest idea of what that sort of contraption it is. When the greeter tells the manager that "there’s a woman at the front who wants to come inside with a cat stroller" the manager asks for confirmation: "you mean she’s got a cat in a stroller?" The manager asks this as she squits toward the front of the restaurant like a cowboy scanning the horizon for attacking indians. She can’t see the stroller (because she’s looking too high, thinking–no doubt–that it’s a baby stroller with a cat in it), but she senses its dangerous presence.
"Yes," the greeter reiterates. "The cat is in a stroller."
Two second pause as the manager makes a quick assessment of the battlefield conditions, then: "No way," she exclaims. "We can’t have cats in here. Tell her she’ll have to take the cat away."
And with that swift decision Senor Swanky’s avoided a potential run-in with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. After all, sound health policy dictates that pets not be in restaurants. And, while it’s not on their website, I suspect the NYC Dept of Health would tell us that sound ‘mental hygiene’ suggests that people who push their cats around in strollers should not expect to gain entrance to restaurants.