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The Battle to Bring Dogs Back to Coffee Labs Begins Anew

The shop came close to receiving a waiver to state law, but now officials say there's no trace of any paperwork and the co-owners are gathering petition signatures again.

The fight to be the first coffee shop in America that is officially dog-friendly resumed this week with again soliciting community support.

On Causes.com, co-owner Mike Love created a page called Help Coffee Labs become the 1st official Dog Friendly coffee house on December 6, which as of 11:30 a.m. today numbers 209 members.

Gary Kogan signed on and left this message, "My dogs very much miss coming with me to Coffee Labs. Come on Westchester County. Let My Canine Go."

It's a battle that's been going on since early 2010 when the Westchester Board of Health put the kabosh on the unofficial dog-friendliness of the venue named after dogs.

After submitting a petition with nearly 3,000 names and receiving , the co-owners' pleas to the Westchester Board of Health had apparently resulted in a letter saying they would receive a waiver to the law if they made certain changes to the shop.

By then, various personal tragedies struck co-owners Love and Alicia Killigrew and they didn’t move forward on demands like moving the coffee roaster that lives in center of the room. Lately, when they revisited the matter, they were told there was now a new commissioner of the board and no record of any such letter.

“We are starting over and community of Westchester support is what got us the yes. We need it again,” writes Love on the website.

“We are not going to take this lying down,” said Killigrew. “We wanted to do this quietly, but now we have to go through this campaign again. I’m surprised this is how it works. We were pretty friendly with them but now the gloves are off.”

Killigrew cited a study she read by a veterinarian stating any health risks from dogs in food-service venues were negligible. Humans pose more of a risk. “[The expert] attributed it to some Puritan-based fear," Killigrew said. "The chances of getting sick from a dog is so slim.”

The demands the health department had made in order to initiate the waiver were, according to Killigrew, “a little over the top.” She thought the board was concerned over the media attention to come of setting such a precedent in the country. “Everyone will be looking at the model. It’s exciting, and a lot of people do it illegally.”

For now, it’s back to making calls to the health department, and collecting names. 

Love rallied the troops online. "We have 153 people awesome!," he wrote earlier today. "But we need more - we had 3,000 signatures on last petition, lets do it! Just click, it doesn't cost anything."

Customer Aliza Garofalo commented, “Coffee Labs isn't Coffee Labs without a few dogs lying around. Help make this happen again!”

Peter G December 08, 2011 at 11:11 AM
Animals prohibited from food service or production facilities is not only a county health code issue, but a state and federal health law...sounds like a tough battle to overcome. Of course calling attention to health code issues such as this might draw scrutiny on other topics, like the fact that Coffee Labs stores it's coffee beans on the floor out in the open...most health codes require any product, even canned goods to be stored off the floor. I'd be curious to see the "letter saying they would receive a waiver to the law if they made certain changes to the shop." The County says they have no record of it...I have my doubts as well.
Patriot December 08, 2011 at 12:59 PM
This is why starbucks is winning even though they charge 4 dollars for a crappy cup of coffee. What happens when a dog lifts its leg on a cannister of beans?
Jan Atkinson December 08, 2011 at 01:11 PM
Good luck Mike and Alicia! So sorry you have to deal with this hideous bureaucratic mess again. Meeting all the dogs visiting Coffee Labs was always a highlight of the day - it was part of what makes Tarrytown so unique! And of course, Buster still sulks that he has to wait outside now.....
joy December 08, 2011 at 02:08 PM
Good luck. We are pulling for this.
michael December 08, 2011 at 02:38 PM
the 50lb coffee bean sacks are on the floor, they are roasted and then cooled and sealed and bagged in another room. the roasting process will kill of any potential problems, If you would look into the ways coffee and many other food products are harvested and treated befor they reach our country you woulnt be so concerned about raw green beqans in a bag on the floor.
Peter G January 31, 2012 at 12:10 PM
So wait, Michael...are you using lax or non-existent standards in foreign countries to justify circumventing the tighter more stringent ones in our country?
michael February 02, 2012 at 04:12 AM
@ peter, The beans come in to the country green, raw and dirty. When they are roasted they kill all the bacteria. I just read a great artical about a program that allows termanally ill people to have dogs visit them in the hospital! FYI I am not the owner of Coffee Labs.

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