Published September 16th, 2020 at 9:45 AM
Bar K, the pioneering bar and café where dogs frisk with humans and one another, is expanding to St. Louis and Oklahoma City, and continues to thrive at its original downtown riverfront location that opened two years ago.
“It’s great to see the vision come true,” said Leib Dodell, who co-founded Bar K with David Hensley. “From the beginning, we wanted to expand our concept of dog-human recreation.”
Dodell said Bar K’s first expansions outside Kansas City will be in The Grove neighborhood of St. Louis and in the Boathouse District of Oklahoma City. He described both as hip places popular with the young adults who like to bring their dogs with them.
“The Grove is a cool emerging neighborhood with lofts and breweries,” he said. “We’re repurposing a beautiful old warehouse.”
The plan, which is already underway, calls for using about half the 56,000-square-foot warehouse at 4565 McRee Ave. for a bar and restaurant and about 10,000 square feet of indoor dog playing area.
There will be several acres of dog-romping space outdoors as well. The plan calls for an opening in late summer or early fall of 2021.
The Oklahoma City location will be on the Oklahoma River near downtown and the popular Bricktown area. It calls for a two-acre site that will utilize some of the same shipping containers used in the architecture of the KC location.
The Oklahoma location is expected to open in 2022. Both the St. Louis and OKC locations each represent a $3- to $4 million investment each.
Bar K originally opened in the West Bottoms in 2016 and relocated to the riverfront in August 2018 on a two-acre site leased from Port KC.
The Bar K amenities for humans include an indoor, air-conditioned full-service bar and restaurant with giant overhead murals of Hensley’s and Dodell’s dogs: Bishop, Benji and Bear. There is an outdoor bar as well and patios for dining and drinking.
Dog owners can buy a membership for unlimited visits with their pets or day passes. Anyone can also just stop by for a cold drink and food, and enjoy the spectacle.
Bar K opened a new bar area called “No Other Pup” last summer. It’s sponsored by Sporting KC and is a playful twist on its “No Other Pub” location in the Power & Light District.
Dodell said the owners are thrilled with the announcement last week the streetcar will be extended to the riverfront, dropping off more people at Bar K’s front door.
The extension plan also calls for building a new pedestrian and bike bridge parallel to the Grand Viaduct.
“It’s going to be huge for the riverfront and couldn’t be better news for us,” he said.
Adding to the positive news, a 353-unit apartment development is being built next door to Bar K by Northpoint Development. While the construction has been mildly disruptive, when completed, Bar K will gain some shared parking with its new neighbors.
Plans call for Bar K to continue to expand. Odell said the venture would like to add another five cities in the next three years, including OKC and St. Louis. It would like to be in 10 cities within the next five years.
“We’re looking at Dallas, Denver and Milwaukee,” he said.
Flatland contributor Kevin Collison is founder and publisher of CityScene KC, an online source for downtown news and issues.