Gary Langsford has a bone to pick with Prego restaurant's "no dogs" policy.
Last week, Langsford and his wife Vicki Vuleta were refused a table at the popular restaurant on Auckland's Ponsonby Rd because their beloved dog, Zippy, had joined them for dinner.
"The funny thing is we went there last year and sat in exactly the same spot. I wasn't even asking to go into the front courtyard with all the 'seen to be seens' - the table faces the carpark. I said to the maitre d': 'No Zippy, no us. We come as a package'," he said.
Langsford, a high profile gallery director, took to social media to vent.
He wrote on Facebook: "A beautiful Auckland summer's evening and what better than to sit outside with your favourite pooch at a restaurant and enjoy a meal and a glass of wine. It's fine at the Ponsonby Bistro, or Apero or SPQR but not at Prego.
"You can't even sit outside at the tables facing the carpark! It was fine last year but apparently there's a new policy. Well Prego, get your act together."
Brandon Lela'ulu, Prego's general manager, said they were "dog lovers" at the restaurant, but they had introduced the dog ban for a variety of reasons.
"Not all dogs are as sweet as Zippy, other guests have rather large dogs.
"While Gary is very much a great dad to Zippy, other dog owners are less so," he said.
"Our courtyard holds 10 tables. There were days when we had five or more dogs and some guests wanted to bring up to three dogs with them."
He went on to say some dogs were urinating on the tree in the courtyard and digging up plants and walking through the restaurant off their leads.
"Other dogs were begging at other diners' tables, barking, dribbling, and frightening [customers]."
After many complaints from customers, Prego introduced a 'no dog' policy which was unlikely to change.
Prego also has strict guidelines on how children should behave, including: "No running in the restaurant, rolling or playing around on the ground, jumping on furniture, screaming, hitting and throwing and playing in the bathrooms is definitely NOT appropriate. Children should be supervised at all times."
Zippy, who has almost 2500 Instagram followers, had always been welcome in most of Auckland's cafes, bars and restaurants, Langsford said.
Vuleta described the dog as a "sweetie".
He is a regular fixture at Vuleta's store Design 55 on Eden Terrace.
"We are parents and there are some less desirable dogs like there are less desirable children. This should be decided on a case-by-case basis. We have customers who have met Zippy before, he is not threatening or annoying," she said.
Added Langsford: "Honestly, the last time we were at Prego, there were more children than adults. Zippy is very well-behaved and chilled. We don't feed him at the table at home, so he has to learn that's not where he's fed. So he is comfortable sitting under the table.
"I give him 10/10 compared to some of the free-range children who go there."
An Auckland Council spokesperson for animal management told the Weekend Herald there was no bylaw banning dogs from outside restaurants.
"But if a dog is behaving aggressively then the council can be notified."
Tony Astle, the owner of Antoine's in Parnell, has welcomed four-legged friends to his restaurant for the past 47 years. The bon vivant and hater of faux vegans has cooked venison at $50 a pop plus GST for Gypsy, a dog who dined there twice a week with his parents.
"Young women love coming here with their puppies. I have a very wealthy customer who came in once wearing a mink coat. Thankfully we don't have activists who spray paint on people wearing an animal. I said 'For God's sake it's so hot in here why don't you take your coat off'?
"She lifted up her coat and there was her little pooch tucked in her pocket. It was fluffy like a toy and the same colour as the mink. But it was well behaved and it didn't make a sound the whole time she had dinner,"Astle said.
But Lela'ulu wants Langsford and his family to know they are "always welcome" and the duck risotto is tasting "better than ever" and awaiting their return.
Langsford hasn't ruled out returning to Prego - but only as long as Zippy can tag along.
"It's been such a great Ponsonby institution. We have spent thousands of dollars there over three decades. The one thing we sorely miss is the duck risotto. I would go back in a heartbeat if I can take Zippy. I can't possibly go back if they won't have Zippy. Otherwise I'll go there wearing dark glasses and a white cane."