Cafe complaint leaves dogs out in the cold

Alex Junior co-owner Kieran Cromb with regular customer Jude Sharper and Sam (5). Picture: David Baylis d495360
Alex Junior co-owner Kieran Cromb with regular customer Jude Sharper and Sam (5). Picture: David Baylis d495360

HOSPITALITY is “all about those soft touches” says Alex Junior co-owner Kieran Cromb.

Since opening in October 2017, these included accommodating dog walking customers to be able to have their furry friends line up with them in the Padbury café entrance while ordering.

However, a complaint to the City of Joondalup meant this had to stop, which has caused some “discontent” with some customers who now have to tie their dogs up outside while they place their order.

“It’s heartbreaking if a person is on their own and doesn’t want to tie their dog up for whatever reason – maybe their dog is anxious or there’s kids around – and we lose that customer because we can’t help or service them which is our sole reason for doing this,” Mr Cromb said.

He said while he would love to be able to take orders from the outside service window, with more than 450 customers a day it would mean longer wait times for everyone and it just wasn’t feasible.

After advising customers that “dogs are no longer allowed in the queue” via Facebook, one responded they were “very sad to hear our local council is acting on this”.

“I don’t see what the drama is all about. I love coming to AJ (Alex Junior) and seeing the fur kids being included in their family’s outing,” they said.

Another said: “that’s a bit sad and I don’t even own a dog”.

And Hillarys MLA Peter Katsambanis said: “that sounds crazy”.

“Is there a back story to this? Or just bureaucratic nonsense?,” he posted.

However, one poster agreed with the move.

“Dogs in food premises! Gross! Looks to me like the council is applying the national Food Standards Code requirements,” they said.

Joondalup Mayor Albert Jacob confirmed the City had received a complaint from a member of the public regarding dogs entering the indoor area of Alex Junior.

“Once a complaint is received, a local government is required by law to investigate and act on any breaches of relevant State Government legislation,” he said.

“The City investigated these concerns and confirmed with the café’s proprietor that these practices were occurring.”

Alex Junior co-owner Kieran Cromb with four-month-old Scotch. Picture: David Baylis

Mr Jacob said the Food Act stated a food business must not allow live animals in areas where food is handled, with discretion only provided to outdoor areas and some exemptions for assistance animals.

“The ability for dogs to even be permitted in outdoor dining areas is a relatively recent change and one which I championed while I was a member of State Parliament,” he said.

“If a proprietor allows a dog within an outdoor dining area, this is allowable however their general obligation of ensuring the service of safe food is still required to be met.”

Mr Cromb said while he understood the requirements of the Food Act, the entrance area was not where food was prepared or served, with orders delivered through a side window and the dogs not allowed in the inside dining area.

“It was a small space where we allowed well-mannered dogs on leads with their owners,” he said.

“It created a wonderful buzz especially with the kids.”

One customer said as a non dog owner, she loved visiting the café to get her “dog fix”.

Mr Cromb said his business partner Steve Litas, who has owned the neighbouring pharmacy for nearly 20 years, found there was “no sense of community” at the Padbury Shopping Centre before.

“He seldom saw walkers, riders or dogs and now we see them in abundance,” Mr Cromb said.

“We are getting people out in their suburb and it brings joy to the staff and the customers so to get told off for what we thought was a nice touch was quite devastating.”

Alex Junior head barista Dan Ainslie. Picture: David Baylis

Mr Cromb said he was hoping to work with the City on getting an exemption.

In the meantime, he said they were trying to put initiatives in place to help customers, including being able to text through orders.

Mr Cromb said he hoped “common sense will prevail”.

“If the area is good enough for assistance and service dogs (which are still permitted inside) then what’s the difference if you have a well-behaved dog just while you line up to place an order,” he said.

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