‘Blindsided’: Kelowna brewery launches petition to keep its taproom dog-friendly

A Kelowna brewery that’s made a name for itself through its pooch-friendly practices has suffered a setback and it’s turning to its people for some assistance.

Unleashed Brewing Co. is in Kelowna’s north end, and for five months, dogs were allowed in the taproom on a temporary, or test, basis.

“Having a dog-friendly taproom has been our goal and vision from the very beginning. We knew it would be an adventure trying to gain the proper approvals from the health authorities within BC, but that never discouraged us,” reads a petition brewery owners Shantal Hordos, Mike Prytula and Ashton Sykes posted this week.

“We had a plan, consulted with dog-friendly breweries in other provinces, and had solid reasoning as to why our vision would work. We also don’t have a kitchen or prep food — we serve pre-packaged snacks and often have food trucks on site.”

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During the temporary period, the trio consulted with local and provincial health authorities and were given temporary approval to allow dogs within the taproom, allowing the business to become the first indoor and outdoor dog-friendly brewery in B.C.

“Our 5-month-long trial went amazingly well, better than even we imagined! Our brewery has been packed with people and their dogs, and it’s been heartwarming to see; our dream come true,” the petition reads.

However, that dream is at risk of coming to an end after the business received a notice from Interior Health on Jan. 25.

“I was kind of blindsided,” said Prytula, CEO of Unleashed Brewing. “We had no complaints. We didn’t have a single issue during the entire thing. There was no reason to say no anymore.”

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The business hoped that assisting local health authorities with the rules and policies would eventually lead to a permanent policy change; however, they were told otherwise last week.

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“As of Feb. 15, the trial period is over. They’re going to review it and it’s just over and done with. We’re not allowed to have dogs in anymore. It is a huge majority of our business,” Prytula said.

The brewery was originally told it wouldn’t be allowed to have dogs indoors starting Jan. 26, but it was able to extend it by three weeks.

The brewery prides itself on being a hangout spot for people and their four-legged friends, and loyal customers were disappointed to hear the news.

Customer Kassidy Cote said being able to bring her dog is one of the main factors she comes to Unleashed Brewing.

“It’s why I come here,” Cote said. “I want my dog to be comfortable here and for myself to be comfortable here. My Saturdays, my two days off a week, I want to spend the whole day with my dog.”

“It’s hard to find places in the wintertime,” said customer Darlene Abbie. “There are lots of patios that allow dogs but in the wintertime, it’s nice to have an indoor place to bring a dog.”

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The business has now turned to the community for help. It is looking for support through a petition to allow canines to be inside permanently.

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“We’re almost at 5,000 signatures already. I think that’s pretty substantial, at least I hope,” Prytula said. “There’s positivity with the public. They want to see this happen. They want to see it stay.”

All of those signatures were garnered in just a few days, after the online petition was started on Jan 29.

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