Bar K: ‘It’s the happiest place on earth’
Leib Dodell just wanted a safe, fun place for his two dogs — Bear (a shepherd mix) and Benji (an Australian shepherd) — to hang out with other dogs.
“Joyous for pets, joyous for humans,” he said.
But his choices in Kansas City were limited. So in early 2016, Dodell and his Bear Bishop LLC business partner, David Hensley, began planning an off-leash park called Bar K Dog Bar. By early the next year, they had a temporary indoor park, Bar K Lab, in a vacant West Bottoms warehouse and started signing up members. The “lab” also was a place to fine-tune their plans.
Now their 2-acre off-leash dog park is set to open Aug. 14 on the western edge of Berkley Riverfront Park.
The main area, open to all dogs, includes a jungle gym (built in partnership with Westlake Ace Hardware), a shallow splash pool with cabana-style seats where dogs can lounge while they dry off, and a rock climbing wall with five sides of varying difficulty by RoKC Climbing Gym.
Bar K also has small spaces sectioned off for dogs weighing no more than 25 pounds and Puppies’ Pub for ages 3 to 9 months.
Employees are trained to observe dog body language and intervene before conflicts ensue, Dodell said. Employees also are trained in basic first aid, and Bar K has two first aid stations.
Dogs can chow down on such entrees as beef stew, chicken risotto and turkey and sweet potato meatballs — recipes Bar K developed with Purina nutritionists. Treats and desserts include peanut butter and carob cookies by Kansas City-based Three Dog Bakery.
And the Groom-Groom Room is an on-site dog salon.
For humans and dogs, Bar K includes a landscaped area for people to hang out with the dogs or just watch them at play. Other seating areas include the Rieger Rickhouse — part of a repurposed shipping container with custom art and whiskey barrel tables from partner J. Rieger & Co. Another repurposed shipping container, Messenger Coffee Cabana, is by partner Messenger Coffee Co.
Humans can also sit at a full bar, restaurant and coffeehouse serving such items as juices, smoothies, avocado toast, deviled eggs, hummus, tuna poke salad, grilled chicken bowls, burgers, fresh baked cookies, Messenger Coffee and specialty cocktails by Ryan Maybee, owner of Manifesto and co-founder of J. Rieger & Co. No dogs are allowed in the restaurant, but leashed dogs will be allowed on a second-floor deck overlooking the park.
Humans are invited to play super-sized versions of such games as Connect 4 and Guess Who? by another partner, KC Crew. A stage will be used for live music, educational presentations and more, sponsored by Bayer Animal Health.
At an outdoor beer garden, owners can get a drink while keeping an eye on their dog.
A 3,000-square-foot space, Petfinder Park, sponsored by Petfinder.com and Purina, will be used for adoption events, training demonstrations and other programs.
Hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The cost: $10 a day for one dog and $5 for each additional dog in the household. An annual membership is $225 with unlimited access and $25 extra for each additional dog in the family.
People without a dog also can come in for free to “soak up the atmosphere,” Dodell said.
The owners had investors and a U.S. Small Business Administration loan through Core Bank. The design is by Clockwork Architecture + Design, and the riverfront land is leased from the Port Authority of Kansas City. ARCO National Construction put up the 5,000-square-foot building out of 17 repurposed shipping containers.
Bar K will have about 90 employees.
Dodell and Hensley plan to open Bar K in other markets, including St. Louis.