The new Bar K Dog Bar remains, first and foremost, a joyful and welcoming space. The community-building formula perfected in the Bar K Lab (pets, people, play, potables, and a touch of special Bar K magic) has not been lost in the translation. Yes, we’re gushing.
The Bar K retains its industrial roots in the container construction and in the use of found space under the Heart of America Bridge. Look around you, and you’ll find traces of the much-loved warehouse space in the West Bottoms that was the Bar K Lab. Adirondack chairs still provide a pop of Bar K blue and orange and make comfortable places for intimate conversation in the open play area. The made in Kansas City Ricochet game table has a new home on the upstairs patio. Inside, a container door is repurposed as a sliding barn-style door.
But owners David Hensley and Leib Dodell, together with the architects at Clockwork +Design have moved far beyond the limits of industrial warehouse space to create a community gathering place with a modern vibe that pulls together the best elements of downtown Kansas City, from the Rivermarket to the Crossroads. The team has somehow managed to create the perfect mix of posh and homey. The blend balances without culture clash the trendy and upscale, yet down home and friendly spirit of this upwardly mobile midwestern city.
The team has considered the comfort and needs of both humans and dogs equally in their design. Playful canine-themed works by local artists grace the front of the building and create a welcoming atmosphere throughout the facility. Inside, there are humans-only social spaces, including a coffee bar, full bar, restaurant, lounge, and conference center. Outside, and on the patios, humans and dogs mingle.
The architects designed a park that is landscaped for function and beauty. The team incorporated different types of surfaces to provide visual interest, and also textural interest for the dogs. Turf, sand, gravel, and wood chips provide places for dogs to run, dig, and play. A meandering walkway leads through small groves of native trees in the shade of the bridge. Large boulders and wide concrete steps provide ampitheather-style seating with a view of the park.
Play features for dogs only include a large jungle gym, a climbing area, and a splash pool, complete with doggy cabanas. There are separate spaces for puppies and small dogs. Humans may choose to linger on the patios, at the outdoor bar, in the beer garden, or indoors. Or they may play one of a number of human-sized lawn games.
As always, dog play is well supervised by Bar K staff. There are water stations and misters at several locations in the park, and staff keep the water bowls clean. Recycled containers at both ends of the park serve as shelters for warming or shade.
Ultimately, the new Bar K Dog Bar will be a true community center for Kansas City dogs and their families. The team plans to host a variety of live events on their outdoor stage, including live music, educational events, and more. For now, patrons and their pooches can enjoy live music in the evenings. In true Bar K fashion, dogs are part of the entertainment, and you will occasionally find them upstaging the performers.
If you played at the Bar K Lab, you will recognize many familiar faces among the staff at the new Bar K, along with many new friends. “Must love dogs” is a condition of hire, and it shows. It’s a place where everyone knows your dog’s name. Come in a few times, and everyone will know your name, too. That’s the magic of the Bar K: everyone is truly special here.