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Bar Exam

Dogs Are Practically Required at Norm's

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At Norm's Eatery & Alehouse in Fremont, dogs are not only welcome, they're practically required. While the place is famous locally on a number of counts—for packed Thursday trivia nights, for mind-controlling house-made potato chips, and for 40-ounce PBRs (formerly served in paper bags, now in little insulated jackets with the Norm's insignia on them)—the raison d'être is clearly canine. A statue of a dog wearing a scarf greets you at the door. More 3-D dog renderings sit and stay above the bar. There are photos of dogs, posters of dogs, dog-related inspirational placards ("My goal in life is to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am"), dogs painted on the walls above the red vinyl booths, and a sculpture of a metal dog playing golf. (One of the very few departures from dog decor is a photograph of the couple from Twilight locked in an amorous embrace. The personable barkeep was unable to explain this aberration.)

For those in need of the proverbial hair of the dog, Norm's has a noteworthy bonus weekend happy hour, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., with $4 Bloody Marys, mimosas, and mango Bellinis. Last Sunday at brunch, the place was, if not wall-to-wall, at least partially carpeted with dogs, and no one seemed the slightest bit concerned about the literal hair of the dog getting everywhere. (I found one clinging to my cell phone, which had been stowed in a deep pocket, hours later.) A small brown dog with a green-and-white neckerchief sat next to its owner on the seat in a booth, behaving well but clearly wishing desperately for opposable thumbs.

At the bar, two black pugs roosted next to each other on their respective owners' laps. If you do not want your bowl of clam chowder 18 inches from a pug, you should not eat it at the bar at Norm's. (The chowder: quite good, with a light, slightly winey broth instead of any pasty thickness.) One of the pug owners gave a knowledgeable-sounding soliloquy about the Bengals game showing on one of the above-bar flat-screens; on another, the Sounders nullified themselves from the MLS play-offs in overtime. (The Sounders FC special scramble was the opposite of a letdown, with avocado and spinach for the green, then tomatoes and bacon for good measure. The pug owners expeditiously enjoyed a plateful of bacon-wrapped shrimp.)

Near the entrance, two Scotties looked poised to battle the pugs, while a fluffy white giant 27 times their size (possibly a bear-dog hybrid) refused to play dead. "BEAU! Sit, Beau!" his keeper commanded serially. Then, that accomplished, "BANG!" he said, shooting an imaginary gun at Beau as a cue. "BANG! Beau, BANG!" The majestic beast was having none of such barroom tricks. recommended

Norm's Eatery & Alehouse, 460 N 36th St, 547-1417

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Max Solomon 1
i don't get how the health dept. is cool with this.
Posted by Max Solomon on November 12, 2009 at 3:01 PM · Report this
Now that you mention it, Cousin Pug is rather odd.

Now go fuck off before i grab my razor flexi-leash and garrotte you to stumps. Fucking ill mannered twit.

Posted by apogon is my catcha on November 12, 2009 at 3:07 PM · Report this
eric (the other one) 3
Since most bars and restaurants do not allow people with their pets (and I have no problem with that), surely the anti-dog contingent can just fuck off to one of those hundreds of eateries and allow us happy pet owners this one option?

If a bigot doesn't want to see gay gentlemen dancing close, he can retire to any of a score of bars which are hetero and simply avoid the few gay options, and it's his right to do so. But if some GOP asshat strolls into the Blue Parrot and starts squealing about how there are GAYS in there, near his FOOD, he should be invited to mind his own business and leave. Likewise dog-haters and the few, few establishments that are dog-friendly.


Not every bar is for every body. Stories like this are great for comment-farming, but reveal something of a hypocrisy when held up to even basic scrutiny.
Posted by eric (the other one) on November 12, 2009 at 3:11 PM · Report this
eric (the other one) 4
My comment above is aimed more at Mr. Savage's SLOG post than Ms. Clement, who is simply relating the circumstances of her visit. Mostly.
Posted by eric (the other one) on November 12, 2009 at 3:13 PM · Report this
@3&4: Gays are people. Dogs are not people. Your analogy reveals you to be somebody who does not understand this distinction. It's unclear whether that makes you a homophobe or merely an idiot.

There are perfectly valid hygienic reasons for the laws on the books banning dogs from restaurants.
Posted by Dogs Aren't People on November 12, 2009 at 3:23 PM · Report this
T 6
@3 Your "basic scrutiny" is a little too similar to bigots who are against gay marriage on the grounds that next we'll have people wanting to marry their pets. Dogs are not people. How the health dept is ok with this is a complete mystery to me.
Posted by T on November 12, 2009 at 3:29 PM · Report this
Oh, for crying out fucking loud. Dog haters can go to any fucking bar in this city, any bar except this one, and enjoy a doggie-free environment.

Keep your fucking dog-hating hands off this landmark establishment, assholes. Go be evil where you're welcome.
Posted by Meat Weapon on November 12, 2009 at 3:30 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 8
Further logic fail @ 3 & 4 - dogs are (supposedly) a health code violation, gay people are not.
Posted by Matt from Denver on November 12, 2009 at 3:31 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 9
Good question @ 6 - is this bar bribing the health inspectors? I think some investigative journalism is in order.
Posted by Matt from Denver on November 12, 2009 at 3:32 PM · Report this
For everything there should be a place. I for one don't mind eating soup 18 inches from a pug as long as the pug doesn't come any closer than that. Really folks the average human being eats over 50 insects a year by accident (more if you are a bicyclist or a ride a motorcycle.) Get over it.
Posted by andre on November 12, 2009 at 3:34 PM · Report this
Why do people care? Leave these people and their dogs to eat in their bar, why does it matter to you?

Whats the chance that the health department comes down like a hammer on this place now?
Posted by Why on November 12, 2009 at 3:42 PM · Report this
Hyzenthlayk9 12
@3: My sentiments exactly.

It is rare to find a truly dog friendly place, and when one finds such a place - especially one that is so clearly identified, it should be treasured by the dog-folk and any who have a problem with a canine presence should go elsewhere.

Being new to the area I am glad to hear that such a place exists and plan to visit soon - not just for the food, but for the community of other dog-people.
Posted by Hyzenthlayk9 on November 12, 2009 at 3:44 PM · Report this
YOU! I wanna take you to a DOG BAR! DOG BAR! DOG BAR!
Posted by mint chocolate chip on November 12, 2009 at 3:48 PM · Report this
308 million people in the U.S.
855,000 human on human aggravated assaults a year in the U.S. That's a 0.28% rate.

4.7 million dogs int he U.S.
72,114,000 dog on human aggravated assaults a year in the U.S. That's a 6.52% rate. I imagine dog on dog assault would be even higher.

Conclusion: Dogs are more violent than humans. Call me specist but I do not feel safe in a room full of unknown dogs. (half joking)
Posted by datajunkie on November 12, 2009 at 3:49 PM · Report this
Oh no, we need to ban dogs within 25 feet of an entrance to a restaurant or bar!

Go to another bar if this is a problem. I would hang out there as long as the dogs (and the patrons) behave well. This place sounds fun and I wish we had something like it in my neighborhood.
Posted by Reg on November 12, 2009 at 3:51 PM · Report this
Hyzenthlayk9 16
@13: I used to run the Viking Kittens "Gay Bar" all the time. Thanks reminding me of that odd little gem.
Posted by Hyzenthlayk9 on November 12, 2009 at 3:55 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 17
Oh noes!

.... stares at Dan ....

Seriously, one doesn't tend to see dogs very often in Norm's, and then usually outside or near the entrance.

Mountain meet molehill ...

P.S.: no pit bulls seen there so far
Posted by Will in Seattle on November 12, 2009 at 3:56 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 18
There are quite a few humans I don't want anywhere near my food. Can we ban them from eating establishments for health code reasons?
Posted by keshmeshi on November 12, 2009 at 4:01 PM · Report this
oops. i mean 72 million dogs and 4.7 million dog attacks.
Posted by datajunkie on November 12, 2009 at 4:05 PM · Report this
@18: No.
Posted by See above, under "dogs are not people." on November 12, 2009 at 4:05 PM · Report this
kitschnsync 21
Norm's has been a favorite watering hole for me ever since I moved to Fremont. I don't own a dog, but I do love them, and the fact that dogs are allowed is actually a big bonus to me. Now that I know Dan Savage will never eat there, I love the place even more!

More fun Norm's trivia: the place is actually named after a dog. There is also a menu item named after Beatrice, another canine.

They used to have specials on 40s of PBR Wednesday nights, but I'm not sure that is still the case. It was always fun to stroll in and see people drinking from huge bottles wrapped up in paper bags.

Norm's has excellent food, far better than you ever expect of an alehouse, and they pick great beers for the taps. Check it out, doglovers. Seriously.

And if you aren't a doglover, don't go. Simple enough, eh?
Posted by kitschnsync on November 12, 2009 at 4:07 PM · Report this
I will totally admit to being a dog person. I've always had a dog as a pet, and will probably continue to do so. However, I also don't feel most public indoor places should welcome pets. It can be dangerous, insanitary, and inconsiderate to allergy sufferers.

That being said, there's no harm in having designated "pet-friendly" bars and restaurants, as long as all customers understand what they're getting themselves into.
Posted by Surprisingly Helpful on November 12, 2009 at 4:09 PM · Report this
I get faux-maternal guilt every time I leave my dog at home and go out.

This place sounds awesome!
Posted by My baby's a Bichon on November 12, 2009 at 4:16 PM · Report this
The real issue isn't that they allow dogs, but whether they allow dogs in violation of health code. I've seen it stated that Seattle bans pets from restaurants and bars, yet there don't seem to be any shortage of bars that openly allow dogs to come in.

So, instead of the knee-jerk "dogs bad!" / "dogs good!" postings, why don't we first determine if a) dogs are banned or not; and b) if they are banned, why are these places apparently allowed to let dogs in anyway? That will be a much more interesting conversation, I think.
Posted by Dogs - cute but deadly? on November 12, 2009 at 4:28 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 25
Did you know that the dogs who come to Norm's are mostly alien extraterrestrials waiting to star in the next SF movie?


That's why they're so nice.

But also why you should never leave your food and beer unattended when you go to the restroom.
Posted by Will in Seattle on November 12, 2009 at 4:37 PM · Report this
MLP 26
I'm a huge dog person. Have one, love him more than words. I've had a dog my entire life. However, I went to Norm's last week, and that place is a nightmare. Took a good 3 minutes to get to the bar, because everyone's dogs were in the middle of everything, leashes pulled in every direction, no one making sure their dog wasn't blocking an aisle (Seriously...aisles exist for a reason folks. What if there is a fire?). Dogs humping, dogs licking, dogs fighting. Loudly. Aggresively. Best part of the night, however, had to have been when some asshole's dog ATE DIRECTLY FROM OUR BOWL OF TASTY HOMEMADE POTATO CHIPS. His owner had to get real close to the special menu and couldn't possibly control his dog while he was figuring out what soup he wanted. The owner offered to replace the chips...but then of course didn't.
Good times. Why aren't there so many more dog bars?!
Posted by MLP on November 12, 2009 at 4:44 PM · Report this
and closed. thx for the report mlp.
Posted by that should do it on November 12, 2009 at 4:52 PM · Report this
I agree with #22. I like dogs, but if I walked into this place not realizing it was a "dog bar" I'd be totally grossed out by the dog smell and shedding in such close proximity to my food.

But dog lovers are often totally oblivious to those things, so let them have the place. Maybe they should change the name, though, so "I love my pets but also like my food without dog aroma" people are aware of this before they make plans to eat there.
Posted by dogs smell funny on November 12, 2009 at 4:52 PM · Report this
Dingo 29
Millions upon millions of people own dogs (and yet more own cats), keep them in their homes, and eat food prepared there every single day. Dogs are permitted in restaurants and pubs in plenty of countries. Unless there are dogs running loose in the food preparation area, I see no reason why they would be more of a danger to people in restaurants than other people (who use toilets and don't wash their hands afterwards; shed hair and bits of skin; and carry diseases that are transmissible to other humans).
Posted by Dingo on November 12, 2009 at 4:54 PM · Report this
Vince 30
I want a bar with lots of turtles. Any turtle bars?
Posted by Vince on November 12, 2009 at 4:59 PM · Report this
elenchos 31
What's hypocritical is the Stranger crying about the injustice when the police enforce laws against gay porn videos in bars, or whining that the health department is hard on your favorite rolling roach coach. And then doing all you can to narc on bars that allow dogs. You want to give nightlife room to flourish if it is something you're into personally, but if nobody on staff digs it then you want the bureaucrats to kick in their doors and shut them down.

Also, how come Savage and Mudede constantly complain on their blog about dogs in bars, but they never complain in person to the management of the bar? It makes one look like kind of a pussy.
Posted by elenchos on November 12, 2009 at 5:35 PM · Report this
elenchos, by now you should know that the Stranger staff singlehandedly gets to decide what public spectacles you should just get used to, and which public spectacles you should not. What I'd like to see, though, is some handy-dandy guide - a set of hard-and-fast rules, if you will - to figure out what public acts the Stranger deems Your Problem if you don't approve of. Dogs in bars? Bad! Men coming on to men in bars? Good! Throngs of straight women coming into bars where men come on to men? Bad! Gay porn in bars? Good! People showing their dicks in bars? Good! (As long as they don't have dogs.)

Hmmm ... guess I'm seeing a pattern here after all, actually.
Posted by The Pit Bull In Dan's Nightmares on November 12, 2009 at 7:07 PM · Report this
Whatever happen to "No shirt, no shoes, no service"? I'll bet all those dogs were butt naked! Eeewwww! At least the dogs are not taking up space tied to the bike rack. My personal pet peeve.
Posted by Pet Peeve on November 12, 2009 at 7:46 PM · Report this
DOG is my co-pilot !
Posted by dogs are better people than most humans on November 12, 2009 at 7:50 PM · Report this
I've eaten in restaurants in France and Germany where people brought their dogs and... it was no big deal. The dogs sat quietly on the floor near their owners. On the other hand, on Tuesday night I had dinner in a restaurant where the next table was occupied by a child who screamed, jumped up and down, and threw toys under our table.

I'll take the dogs.

That said, dog owners need to know their dogs, and know when it's a bad idea to bring them, and keep them under control in public. If you can't put your dog into a sit-stay or a down reliably, you should never bring that dog to a bar or restaurant.
Posted by texan on November 12, 2009 at 7:53 PM · Report this
@31 Elenchos: We know that you love your dog. But a dog isn't a person, and dogs don't have the same rights people do, any more than dog lovers get to ignore health regulations that they don't like. Don't think it's fair? Lobby to get the law changed.
Posted by He Thinks He's People! on November 12, 2009 at 8:05 PM · Report this
Irena 37
Wow, are some of you people ever uptight! Really, what's the big deal? I'm not much of a dog lover, but I think this is a great idea. It also sounds like a great place for dog owners to meet other people and hang out.

As for the health violation argument -- really? Do you really see this as a major health threat? Lots of families have dogs, lots of kids grow up with dogs. I'd guess it's more likely to toughen their immune systems than put them at risk. I don't support dogs in all bars, mostly because it's unfair to people who have allergies (and because dogs can be disruptive), but this one bar doing it sounds like a win-win situation.
Posted by Irena on November 12, 2009 at 8:35 PM · Report this
elenchos 38
Also hypocritical: Stranger potheads agitating to not enforce marijuana laws, because they like pot and don't care about laws. The list of contradictions grows longer the more you look.

Is there word for the political philosophy of libertarianism for me to do what I enjoy but having the nanny state invade the lives of anybody not like me?

Granted, Norm's has been letting in dogs for years and years and we all know how much harm has come of that. Next thing you know somebody is going to be reading off all the names of the hundreds of dead patrons who were killed by the unhealthiness of it all. What was it, like 480 patrons last year? A tragic loss, I admit. But even if 1,000 a year died from dog cooties, isn't it their choice to be killed doing what they love?

(Personally I hate Norm's but that whole other discussion.)
Posted by elenchos on November 12, 2009 at 8:51 PM · Report this
I love this dog bar debate because now I know where all the dog bars are. Dogs <3
Posted by kersy on November 12, 2009 at 9:25 PM · Report this

A dog is not a crab-infested asshole.

If it behaves well, so what???????????????????
Posted by BunnyPirate on November 12, 2009 at 9:55 PM · Report this
Mycelium 41
@35- If only American dogs/dog owners were as well-behaved as European dogs/dog owners, I'm guessing the dog-in-bar thing wouldn't inspire much of a debate.

That being said, I love it when people bring their well-behaved dogs to bars. I grew up with dogs but don't currently own one, so it lessens my dog-deprivation a bit!
Posted by Mycelium on November 12, 2009 at 10:30 PM · Report this
blackhook 42
These little dogs are useless.

Wait!...I take it back. They can be tied to a long pole & used to dust windows.
Posted by blackhook on November 12, 2009 at 11:27 PM · Report this
@38: There is no good reason for anti-pot laws. There are numerous good reasons for not permitting dogs to run around off-leash, particularly in places where food is served.

Hypocrisy, schmipocrisy.
Posted by He Thinks He's People! on November 13, 2009 at 12:49 AM · Report this
This sounds totally gross and I'd never eat there, but I have no problem at all with such a place existing. My state still has a mixture of smoking and non-smoking establishments, and to me it's the same issue: a smoking restaurant is great for smokers, and I can simply choose not to go there.
Posted by Christy O on November 13, 2009 at 7:38 AM · Report this
After Dan's post I really love how all the straight dog lovers are now considering whether it's dirtier to lick a man's anus or let a dog lick their face.
Posted by Karl The Pagan on November 13, 2009 at 9:00 AM · Report this
the dogs don't bother me. if the bar was filthy that would. I'm not a dog owner. just don't like em enough. But i do like em a little bit.

I wouldn't mind them in bars as long as they were well behaved. I'd rather see smoking banned than dogs. And that includes banning smoking from patio sections.
Posted by cpt. tim on November 13, 2009 at 10:15 AM · Report this
RangeWarrior 47
Business owners have the right to admit or deny access to their premises to anyone, and that includes canines. My dogs eat in the same kitchen I cook in and I'm all right with it. Anyone that doesn't like dogs can take their business elsewhere. In Europe this subject doesn't even come up, dogs go most places with their owners and no one is getting distemper over it. The U.S. is a country of whiners.
Posted by RangeWarrior on November 13, 2009 at 10:24 AM · Report this
@47: This country is also a country of entitled assholes who think that they and their dog are too special to be expected to follow rules. The people who bring their dogs into bars and let them run around off-leash begging for food assume everybody in the bar is okay with that because, what, they don't stab it?

The "if you don't like it take your business elsewhere" argument is lame. I like going to my neighborhood pub because it's stumbling distance from home. When some drunk idiot brings in his ill-behaved mutt and lets it run wild, I can't actually just walk to another nearby bar because there isn't one. And I shouldn't have to.
Posted by He Thinks He's People! on November 13, 2009 at 2:53 PM · Report this
tupa 49
I don't really care if a bar is "welcome to dogs", if you don't care for it go else where. No biggie. I am a dog person but would prefer not to eat at a "dog friendly" bar. It just seems cruel to the dogs.

"sit there and watch me eat!!"
very unkind
Posted by tupa on November 13, 2009 at 2:56 PM · Report this
Eating in a room with one or two dogs is one thing. Dining with however many dogs can fit into the bar is another. I eat with my cat sitting next to me all the time. Does that mean I wouldn't feel grossed out eating in a room full of cats? Hell no.

That said, what do I care if others want to eat in a place like that? I just think it's kind of disgusting.
Posted by Norm's is not for me on November 13, 2009 at 3:04 PM · Report this
If Norm's is the only bar you can walk to, you deserve everyone's pity. And not only because of the dogs. But if the owner of some other neighborhood bar has told you they'd rather see you leave than the drunk with the dog, well, that's beyond pathetic. Anyone who has lost a popularity contest with a dog is bound be bitter, and probably stay bitter for years to come. Maybe what the health department is really protecting us from is hurt feelings.
Posted by ringe on November 13, 2009 at 3:21 PM · Report this
@48 "I can't actually just walk to another nearby bar because there isn't one."

Next thing you know anon will tell us he can't actually walk because he has no legs.
Posted by Karl The Pagan on November 13, 2009 at 4:22 PM · Report this
george & dragon, nectar, 9 million in unmarked bills, the red door, the ballroom, sinners and saints and the high dive were the first seven establishments within stumbling distance of norm's that popped into my head after reading 48.

maybe you're too shitfaced to notice, but fremont is kind of a big nightlife spot.
Posted by olive on November 13, 2009 at 8:50 PM · Report this
freikja 54
#9: No investigation needed. They simply pay fines if there are any, but finally, the health department has better things to do, like worry about swine flu and people who call them because someone was smoking 24 1/2 feet from the entrance of a business.

#13: You cracked me up.

Datajunkie: Seriously? Have you been to Norm's? The people that go in there usually live in the area, and if they walk by it with their dogs, their pooches make a beeline for the door because they love it and have other poochie friends there. l've never, EVER run into an unfriendly dog there, and l've been a regular there for almost nine years. Exactly how do you justify quoting a bunch of statistics and making such a judgment if you don't frequent the place? The people are regulars, the dogs are regulars, and their owners are smart enough not to bring in animals that don't play well with others.

#17: Say what? You don't see dogs in there that often? Have you been in on a weekend brunch? You seem to be defending this issue, but l'm just sayin...the dogs at Norm's is precisely why l love the place so much, since l don't own one myself. l would HATE to be a server there, but fortunately, that's not my problem.

#28: People aren't likely to make plans to eat at a restaurant they haven't researched to some degree first, especially if they think they might need reservations. lt's quite clear that Norm's is a dog bar even with the most minimal research. There's no reason they should have to advertise it further. They have paws on the outside of the restaurant for Chrissakes. DOG BAR! lt's a fucking dog bar, kids. Leave them be. Again, if it's not for you, don't go there.

#29: WORD!

Elenchos: Why do you hate Norm's? Just curious, not contentious.

#43 and #48: Read my lips, hon: THE DOGS ARE NOT OFFLEASH AT NORM'S. Therefore, while valid, your annoyingly redundant point about letting dogs run around free is utterly moot. So is your 'take your business elsewhere argument is lame' one, since there are at least ten other places to drink in Fremont besides Norm's, as two others have pointed out. You are a moron; please at least research the things you are discussing so you can actually participate in a discussion with some reasonable credibility. Thank you.

#47: THANK YOU! l was going to mention a bill that was up back in 2007 to allow dogs in bars, and leave it up to the owners to decide. l can't seem to find anything to confirm it passed, but l did have a conversation a year or so back with someone who also goes to Norm's, and they seemed pretty sure the law no longer prevented it.

#49: The dogs love being able to hang out with their owners, whether their owners are eating or not. Generally, dogs are trained not to beg for food; eating around them at a restaurant is no different than eating around them at home. lt beats the fuck out of being tied to the post outside in the middle of winter, which IS cruel.
Posted by freikja on November 14, 2009 at 2:31 PM · Report this
elenchos 55
It was horrible. We came in and asked the waitress if we could watch MotoGP on Speed TV in the back, about 15 minutes before the race was going to start. All the TVs in front had football on but nobody was sitting way in the back on the far side of the bar. The waitress consulted with the bartender, then they came back and told us we could.

So we sat down, ordered cocktails, and then ordered food, watching the pre-race BS. Then our drinks came. Then, 30 seconds before the start, the waitress came up and said somebody else asked for football on that TV too, as the other like 4 TVs were not enough, so we were SOL. Sorry. The place was only about 1/3 full, if that, by the way.

We should have walked out without paying right there, but we were hungry and there was no chance of seeing the race anywhere at that point, so we ate our bitter food and drank our bitter drinks. And that's the real reason Norm's sucks. I don't recall seeing any dogs there that day.

Fuck Norm's.
Posted by elenchos on November 14, 2009 at 5:54 PM · Report this
I don't have a problem dining with Pugs. They are the Epicureans of the dog world.

@elenchos: That would piss me off, and it would piss off my Pug as well. Grandma used to race in Indonesia. Fuck football.
Posted by WenG on November 21, 2009 at 10:10 AM · Report this

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