Orlando dog bar vows to stay open despite state's rule change: 'we're staying open'

The future of a popular dog-friendly bar in downtown Orlando may be in jeopardy after the state health department issued the bar violations and cease-and-desist orders for allowing dogs inside.

"We are open, we're staying open, and, you know, if it's down to my last breath, we will stay open," owner Alex Wright told FOX 35 Wednesday.

In December 2020, he opened up Pups Pub in Tampa. Before opening, he received a "satisfactory" result from a local health inspector, which included a single comment about the dogs. 

"It was just make sure that there is a clear division between the bar and the dog areas where we have the turf," Wright said.

The concept became such a success, he opened up a second location on Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando last July. But shortly after, he began to realize his venue's days may be numbered. 

"All of a sudden, the Department of Health came out and failed us for an inspection. 'Hey, why do you have dogs here?'" he said.

He also received cease-and-desist orders at both locations, with the Florida Department of Health citing a rule that prohibits live animals in a food service establishment, which bars fall under.

"If the code was black and white, we would have never opened. The banks wouldn't have granted us all of these loans for millions of dollars at this point," Wright said.

This month, he filed a complaint against the department, calling out its inconsistencies in how it interprets its own rules. The department wants it dismissed, according to court documents, arguing it, essentially, can interpret its rules in different ways. 

Wright isn't backing down and is reaching out to local and state officials for support.

"If the state were to determine that dogs are not allowed inside our building, I mean, that's the whole concept, so yes, everything's at stake," he said.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for March 3.

On Thursday, Feb. 16, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health told FOX 35 that they take all matters seriously, but cannot comment on pending litigation.