By Kevin Collison
Brooke Laws and her pal Gatsby had been at a loss since July 22.
Their favorite hangout, Bar K, had closed its West Bottoms pilot operation and it wasn’t until this week its new riverfront location was ready for a sneak preview.
“During the two weeks without this, we thought ‘what are we going to do?,'” Laws said.
“You want to take your dog to the dog park, but there’s nothing for you to do as a person. Here, you can interact with people and be social. We love it.”
Gatsby, her mixed Beagle-Lab buddy, wagged his approval.
For David Hensley, who along with partner Leib Dodell, has spent long months refining their Bar K concept, Laws’ observations were exactly what they hoped for.
The new $3 million facility located on two acres leased from Port KC near Berkley Riverfront Park is an oasis for both people and their pooches. They also hope to replicate it in other cities around the country.
“We wanted to create a space where humans and dogs shared a great destination and experience,” Hensley said.
This week, members of the Bar K, which had been in the West Bottoms at 515 Liberty since January 2016, got an opportunity to check out the new digs. Bar K already counts more than 1,000 households as members.
What they found was a creative blend of recycled architecture–the facility incorporated 17 large shipping containers in its design, and lots of fun areas for dogs and their owners to mingle or observe one another.
Even the looming Oak Street viaduct above provided welcome shade for the Doggie Jungle Gym.
The Bar K amenities for humans include an indoors, air-conditioned full-service bar and restaurant with giant overhead murals of Hensley’s and Dodell’s dogs: Bishop, Benji and Bear. There’s an outdoors bar as well and patios for dining and drinking.
Other people features include a coffeehouse with a custom Bar K Blend from Messenger Coffee. grab-and-go food options, games such as Connect Four and Guess Who built by KC Crew, and private party spaces.
For the pups, Bar K includes the jungle gym, a rock climbing wall, splash pool, water bowls and plenty of space to romp. There’s a main area open to all dogs and separate spaces for smaller dogs up to 25 pounds and puppies ages three- to nine months.
“Dogs are like kids,” Hensley said. “If they’re engaged and act they’re very well behaved.”
Animals and their owners can share an amphitheater seating area, the Rieger Rickhouse sponsored by J. Rieger & Co., the Messenger Coffee Cabana and the Seresto Stage, a place for live music and educational lectures sponsored by Bayer Animal Health.
Laws, who lives in an apartment in North Kansas City, welcomes the friendly space and safety of Bar K. The dog park staff keeps an eye out for potential problems.
“My dog has been attacked in other places,” she said.
Her friend Jessica Davies, who also lives in North KC, said she and Lucy, her mixed beagle-dachsund, had been looking forward to the new Bar K for a long time.
“I think the Bar K fits in perfectly, this is what’s needed,” she said. “We’ve looked at moving downtown and this will work perfectly.”
Bar K is open to anyone who owns a dog or who enjoys watching them romp. The official opening day is Tuesday (Aug. 14) and it will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
The new business employs 90 people. The architect was Clockwork Architecture + Design and the builder was ARCO National Construction KC. Bar K has a 10-year, renewable lease on the property from Port KC.
Hensley and his partner hope they eventually can raise the bar on the experience shared by dogs and their owner in other places too.
“We think every major city, and maybe mid-size ones too, would like this,” he said. “People need a place to bring their dogs.”
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