The founders of the Bar-K Lab, Dave Hensley and Lieb Dodell, have exciting plans for their permanent space in Riverfront Park. But what if they have already found the perfect formula for a human and canine hangout space? The 16,000 square foot indoor dog park at 515 Liberty Street in the West Bottoms features a safe play space for dogs plus a small bar serving reasonably priced beer and wine. Dogs can’t go behind the bar, but they are welcome right up to the barstools.
The perfect formula?
We made our first visit to the Bar-K lab last weekend. Frankly, with temperatures in the teens, the indoor play space was the biggest draw for us. The Lab lived up to its reputation as the place to be for urban dogs and their families. Professional staff (we counted two to three people on the floor at any time) monitored dog play and cleaned up accidents. The atmosphere was social for both people and pets. Humans clustered around the central bar area with their drinks or socialized in small groups scattered throughout the facility. Dogs roamed freely, chased any of hundreds of yellow tennis balls, climbed the stairs and ramps, slouched on the worn red leather sofa, or visited the astroturf potty areas. TVs were on, but nobody was watching.
It might have been due to the reassuring presence of the floor staff (or maybe it was the beer) but dog parents seemed a lot more relaxed than the typical dog park crowd. That translated to happier, more relaxed dogs. Bad interactions were uncommon and were quickly broken up by the staff. Our two dogs ran themselves silly and made some new friends. The trip put a happy end to weeks of cabin fever.
Will we go back? Yes, we will. The Bar-K Lab offers memberships for $165 plus $20 for each additional dog. Visits are free with a membership. We chose to play as guests for $10 plus $5 for our additional dog. The dogs loved it, and the experience was stress free for us. We will definitely take advantage of the indoor play space this winter.
What about the new space?
If the Lab is this much fun, the permanent facility, partially located under the Heartof America Bridge between Riverfront Park and the River Market, will be even better, right? Maybe. The new space will include outdoor dog play space and indoor restaurant, bar, and coffee shop for humans. No dogs will be allowed in the indoor spaces. The dog park will be fully staffed to care for dogs while their parents are inside. When the weather permits, humans will be able to sit and eat on the patio with their dogs.
That’s great, but places to play aren’t that hard to find when the weather is good. We regularly eat outside at restaurants with our dogs during warm weather. We’re excited about the state of the art restaurant and healthy menu choices that are coming to the Riverfront area. We’re happy that someone will babysit our dogs while we eat. But when the weather gets cold, we’ll be looking back fondly on the campy comforts of the Bar-K Lab. And we’re asking ourselves if the Lab will remain open for those of us who think it is perfect already.
Photos: Jason C. Doss
KC Pet Collective is not affiliated with Bar-K Lab. For more information about dog-friendly activities at the Lab, check out our Event Calendar.