The entrepreneur behind the planned Barks & Brews dog park says his business will not be, as some have suggested, an unregulated place where people can just walk in from the street with their dogs, set them loose and hope for the best.
After I posted earlier this week about Kris and Traci Withrow’s plans to open the city’s first “dog bar” on the site of a former service shop at 1312 E. English, I heard from Kris, who explained exactly how the park — which will allow humans to enjoy adult beverages while their dogs frolic in an off-leash park — will work.
He’s basing Barks & Brews on a similar business he discovered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where his son goes to school. It’s called Tucker’s Tap Yard, and it opened in the summer of 2022 with a long list of rules and regulations designed to keep both human and canine visitors safe.
Those who want to visit the business, which the Withrows hope to have open by the spring of 2024, will have to have a membership, and those who want one will have to provide all of their dogs’ up-to-date vaccination records. People can choose annual or monthly memberships, or they can pay by-the-visit.
Withrow said he plans to adopt the rules and policies used at Tucker’s Tap Yard — whose owners have generously consulted with him several times during his planning. That business’s list of rules, which Withrow said has worked well, also requires that dogs be free of fleas and ticks, that puppies be older than 4 months, and that dogs over 1 be spayed or neutered.
The outdoor play yard will have at least three “yard rangers” on duty at all times, Withrow said, more on a busy day.
“They go through a training process to make sure they understand any aggressive dog behavior,” he said.
Withrow said that he noticed after Monday’s story was posted on Facebook that people commenting were questioning the wisdom of his plan and were suggesting that the business would be a dangerous place for dogs and people.
But he’s thought those possibilities through, he said, and is doing all he can to prepare for them.
“There are rules and regulations and pretty strict guidelines about how you as an owner need to engage your dog’s capability of interacting with other dogs,” he said. “If your dog has aggressive tendencies, this is not the best place for you.”
Withrow said he and his wife are dog owners — they love their chocolate lab Harley — and when they were visiting their son in Winston-Salem, he took them to Tucker’s Tap Yard.
“We walked into Tucker’s last fall, and within 10 minutes of standing there, we said, ‘Wichita needs this, and why not us?’” he said.
He started researching off-leash dog bars and found that many other cities across the Midwest have them, including Oklahoma City, Kansas City and St. Louis, and “they all seem to be working,” he said.
Withrow said he’s already received city and county approval for the concept and that he submitted his architectural plans to the city last week. Once those are approved, he’ll be able to start work.
The business will include a huge outdoor play yard to the west of the building that will encompass 5,300 square feet with 1,000 reserved for a patio, and it will have separate spaces for large dogs and small dogs to play. The yard will be filled with dog exercise equipment and a sectioned-off area that people can rent to throw birthday parties for their pups.
“The concept is really for the dogs,” Withrow said. “The people are chaperones, so to speak.”
Barks & Brews won’t offer food, but people will be able to order wine and beer on tap, and a limited cocktail menu also will be available. It won’t be a late-night place, Withrow said. The latest Barks & Brews will likely ever be open is 10 p.m.
He’s still setting up the pricing structure but estimates that memberships could cost around $25-$30 a month and drop-in fees would be $10-$15.
Withrow said he intentionally chose the building on English because the area is filled with young, professional dog owners, and Wichita doesn’t have any off-leash parks in that area.
“This will give them the opportunity to relax and have a little bit of freedom, so to speak,” he said.