COLUMBUS: Four-legged friends are a step closer to being able to join their owners on restaurant and bar patios in Ohio.

Dogs soon could be allowed in outdoor seating areas after unanimous passage of a bill by a Senate committee Tuesday. House Bill 263 is expected to be considered by the full Senate on Wednesday, said committee Chairman Sen. Dave Burke, R-Marysville.

The bipartisan measure, which easily won House passage, would allow business owners to adopt their own policies for allowing dogs on patios, with a few requirements.

Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, an employee could not intentionally touch a dog, and the establishment would have to post a sign informing patrons that dogs are allowed. Dogs would have to be on a leash, and the business would have to keep cleanup and sanitary-waste-disposal kits available outside.

Legislators from both the House and Senate have been working on bills to allow dogs back on patios. The move followed the Department of Health’s letter this past spring reminding food and drink establishments that dogs are banned except for service animals, according to Ohio law.

Burke said he was surprised there was no opposition testimony to the bill, even when he and Lanese attempted to solicit those opposed to enjoying their meal or drink with a nearby dog.

“I have not received any opposition,” Burke said. “I’ve asked people in my district and my wife what they think about it, and I have not had anybody come forward against it.”

In contrast, several local bar owners such as Land Grant Brewing Co. and Seventh Son Brewing testified in support of the legislation, saying they wanted the furry friends to mingle about, even hosting dog-themed events.