“I like to drink, and I like my dogs to have fun,” Nancy Stall said with shy little Mickey on her lap and a cocktail in her hand. Mickey is still learning socialization after a rough puppy mill upbringing. Stall and her other dog, Cooper, seem much more adept at interactions. But Mickey is progressing.
They are regulars at the Bark Bar, a clean, well-lighted place in the lower Berkeley/Tennyson area. It might be the happiest bar in Denver. You can bring all of your friends, even your canine besties.
The Bark Bar has been delivering its special cheer to Denver dogs and their fans since Christmas of 2013.
There is a lot to keep a tail wagging at this place.
A large selection of craft brews, a full espresso bar, spirits, wine. Everything one would hope to find from a Denver bar or trendy coffeehouse. Wifi allows patrons to work from a space infinitely more inviting than their cubicle. Food is provided by a variety of local trucks and carts. Patrons are also encouraged to bring in their own munches.
In addition to all the best parts of other great neighborhood pubs, the Bark Bar offers an attached off-leash dog park. It’s so much more than a dog friendly patio. Full frolics are occurring throughout the mulched area. Order your drink in a plastic cup, then join Spot in the yard to chase balls and puppies. Even if you don’t have a dog of your own, grab an IPA and roll around with an excited St. Bernhard while chatting with the big guy’s person.
It’s a hell of a lot more fun than playing that golf video game other bars offer.
The Bark Bar began when owner Catherine Peters was accompanying her husband and dogs at the Berkeley dog park. Dog parks are pretty entertaining, but they lack a lot of attractions for the people. Like beer and mochas.
So Peters committed to creating a venue that was better than a regular dog park, and better than a regular tavern.
The dogs get their own entrance into the fenced in area, just like in the city run facilities. But there are noticeable improvements over the public spaces. The Bark Bar provides significantly more shade, as well as tables and seating. Water bowls are frequently refilled. Each owner is encouraged to pick up after their dog, but the staff also makes periodic sweeps of waste to insure the grounds are always up to their high hygienic standards. An attendant—or puppy bouncer—quells disturbances during the busiest times. There are also numerous water squirt bottles to help owners quiet their own animals.
And there’s booze.
Peters knew how to make a great area for people and dogs, but she needed an experienced manager to handle the bar side of things. Fortunately, her commercial broker knew Michael Faber and introduced the two. Faber recognized a great idea and quickly committed his education and experience to the project. He built an efficient and welcoming bar area, while expanding his own dog pack at home.
The people only bar accommodates several customers with a long bar. Impressive pet portrait photography by Denver artist Ariane Delafosse decorates the walls. Oatmeal cartoons about dog ownership are displayed in the restrooms.
But it’s not entirely about dogs. The Bark Bar is about building a community that includes dogs, but does not leave out the people.
Peters recognized that people at both dog parks and bars were reluctant to talk to each other. Dogs are an easy conversation starter, particularly with a little alcohol to tame inhibitions. But Peters went a step further to eliminate televisions in the bar. They were only a distraction from the people and pets in her establishment.
“People aren’t all on their cell phones here. They’re interacting,” Peters said in recognition of the success in creating a friendly space for conversations.
The social aspect is important for people like Tora Troop, who is often at the Bark Bar with her two dogs. She works from home, but regularly drives past two other public dog parks to get Phoenix and three-legged Bay to this spot.
Not only does it provide important exercise and socialization for her dogs, it gives her an opportunity to get out of her Congress Park home and interact with others.
Even those who commute into an office recognize the importance of seeing others when the workday is over.
Abby Williams was at the Bark Bar with 7-month old Nash.
“It lets me go out and be social without leaving him alone,” Williams said while hugging Nash closely. “…It’s like going to a playground.”
A playground with an impressive draught selection.
The bar also actively promotes itself to relevant community groups. Aly Aga has been bringing her golden doodles Otis Redding and Hank Williams since she found the place through a Denver Doodles meetup group. The three of them make the drive up from City Park.
“There’s dog parks over there, but they’re not fun. I like to have fun, too,” Aga said.
In addition to social groups, the Bark Bar frequently partners with local pet support organizations to promote their missions. They have frequent rescue events, where local shelters bring in dogs who need homes and educate the patrons about their work. They also work with places like No Kill Colorado and Orthopets—makers of prosthetics and orthotics for animals. Tuesday are Tripod Tuesdays, offering discounts for each leg a person’s dog is missing. If your pet is missing 25 percent of her legs, you get 25 percent off.
They also recycle and compost, trying to keep the earth friendly for all the animals on it.
But making the place welcoming to all does require some enforced rules. It’s a dog park, so they comply with all of the rules established for public dog parks in Denver. It’s also a bar, so they must comply with all ordinances regulating drinking establishments.
• The Bark Bar, 4132 West 38th Ave., Denver.
• 10 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, until midnight Friday and Saturday.
• Full bar, and complete espresso bar.
• Food available from outside vendors.
• Off-leash dog yard.