For three years Smith & Deli – an all-vegan takeaway joint in Fitzroy from the owners of Smith & Daughters – has been serving plant-based sandwiches, coffees and treats to a loyal following. Customers’ dogs have always been a big part of the deli’s community and atmosphere and, up until now, they’ve always been welcome inside.
But on Tuesday April 17 the deli was issued with a non-compliance notice from Yarra City Council for allowing dogs in its shopfront. The notice came after a council representative inspected the business as a result of a complaint from a neighbour. Since then the deli has, reluctantly, not allowed any pets inside.
The notice says having dogs inside the premises is “in contravention of the Food Safety Standards” and that the deli must display signs informing customers that this is a “Health Department rule”.
“It’s not even a health and safety issue,” says the deli’s co-owner Mo Wyse. “There is no food being made or consumed in that area.”
Business has already been affected. “On the first day of the ban there were two customers who tried to come in with their dogs – they didn’t feel comfortable tying them up outside and couldn’t order their food, so they just had to go. There are so many customers that come that don’t want to leave their dogs outside. We have regulars … the people who spend $4 a day five days a week, and that can’t happen any more. It’s definitely financially impacting us.”
The community has rallied around the deli with #SaveTheDeliDogs and a petition, which Wyse will take to a council meeting tomorrow. At the time of writing it has collected 1342 signatures. She hopes the deli will be eligible for a special permit that will mean dogs can once again come into the shop.
But a Yarra Council spokesperson told Broadsheet, “There is no council permit available that would allow dogs inside a food business."
“One of council’s key roles in protecting the health of our community is to undertake regular health inspections of food businesses to ensure they are operating in accordance with their food safety responsibilities,” the spokesperson said.
“Food safety regulations are governed by the State Government under the Food Act 1984. The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (a national standard incorporated under the Act) [states] live animals are not allowed inside a food premises, with the exception of assistance animals, which are allowed in areas used by customers. Dogs may be allowed in the outdoor dining areas of food premises, provided the area can be accessed without going through other parts of the premises.”
The spokesperson says the rule applies to any food business where food is being served, regardless of if food is being consumed on-site or not.
“We’ve had an outpouring of help. Which is so awesome,” says Wyse. “I was mad at first, but I feel really positive about all the uproar and people acting for change. It was a customer of ours who started the hashtag and another neighbour is the one who started the petition for us.
“They say don’t get between vegans and their dogs, but really, don’t get between people and their dogs. Dogs affect everybody.”