JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A growing trend for dog lovers will debut in Johnson City as soon as late May — a “dog bar” where human customers can get beer, wine and food truck fare while their canines cavort off-leash in a custom-designed space.
Paul and Nina Boynton own Off Leash Social, which Paul Boynton described as “a membership-driven dog park.” The Boyntons also own Bert and Gus, a couple of “Schnoodles” (schnauzer/poodle mix) who are itching to enjoy the space near the intersection of Denny Mill Road and Oakland Avenue.
“It’s kind of colloquially called a ‘bark and brew,'” Boynton said of the concept. Member dogs must be spayed, neutered and up to date on their vaccines, with records kept on file.
Monthly and annual memberships will be offered, as well as single-day shots. People can visit for free. Dogs register through the website and Boynton said he hasn’t landed on pricing yet.
While dogs have the run of 30,000 square feet of space (almost 3/4 of an acre), their humans enjoy some freedom too, Boynton said.
“You can walk up to the bar, and we’ll have music and wifi, beer, wine, cocktails and sodas,” he said. “We’ve also built out a spot for food trucks.”
Member dogs get free use of a dog wash, which will share space with the people bathroom in a space being built with a 20-foot repurposed shipping container. The drinks will be served from a companion 40-foot repurposed container. Seating will be outside, though a pavilion area with a roof is planned.
“Those are being fabricated off-site by Green Cube, up by the airport,” Boynton said.
The Boyntons, who relocated from Florida to Northeast Tennessee about five years ago, first saw the dog bar concept at a place called “Brewhound” in Jacksonville, Fla. about four years ago.
“I thought, ‘what a brilliant idea,’ went home and promptly didn’t do anything with it,” Boynton said. That changed not too long ago, and the Boyntons did a lot of demographic research in addition to visiting dozens of similar concepts in Florida, Charlotte, Asheville and Chattanooga.
Demographics told them Johnson City. “I don’t want to divulge too much, but there’s a lot of dogs in Johnson City,” Boynton said.
The dog space won’t include any toys nor will toys be allowed, in order to remove possessive or protective behavior. There will be some obstacles, and instead of grass, the surface will be composed of engineered wood fiber.
The refined, engineered hardwood (think high-tech mulch) compacts and is ADA compliant. Boynton said it’s safer for falls and much easier for eliminating 100% of pet waste, acting somewhat like sand on a beach does if you’ve ever tried to scoop poop in that setting.
Boynton said he expects a group of “regulars” to use the space after work as a regular method of exercising their dogs. Weekends are likely to be busier, with people staying longer to hang out with friends.
“A large number of people who come to this kind of park do not have dogs,” Boynton said.
He said the website for Brewhound in Jacksonville offers a preview of what he hopes Off Leash Social’s feel will be like. That website shows monthly memberships (per dog) for $25, daily passes for $8 and several tiers of annual memberships starting at $195. Another park, Hophounds in Mobile, Ala., has a similar pricing structure.
Boynton, who left full-time investment banking about five years ago, said he and Nina moved to the mountains to enjoy the area’s lifestyle.
“We just love dogs and saw an opportunity to provide a cool place to serve dogs and people in Johnson City,” he said. ” We are dog lovers who socialize with dog lovers.”
The park will be open every day but Monday, opening at 2 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends. People who want to learn more about memberships can email firstname.lastname@example.org.