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Tag: bar

Chasing the blues away at The Dog Bar … Where everybody knows your (dog’s) name


And here is my idea of paradise.

It exists, after all, in Charlotte, North Carolina, where five years ago two dog lovers got together and opened a bar that takes “dog-friendly” to new and unfettered bounds.

This is not a bar you have to sneak your dog into, not a bar where you and your dog must sit prim and proper-like outside, not a bar where your dog must remain on his or her leash.

At The Dog Bar in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to see a dog behind the bar, a dog on top of the bar, a dog on top of a dog on top of the bar. Here dogs can be dogs. They can romp, run, drool and even — as Ace and that German shepherd appear to be doing in the slideshow above — flirt a little bit.

This, for dogs, and for me and my continuing quest for true dog-friendliness, was the promised land — a place so joyous, so non-uptight, so calmly chaotic that I could only sit back and take it all in for a bit before getting to my questions.

And my biggest question — being from Baltimore, where the health department considers ice “food,” and as a result bans dogs from the inside of bars — was how the heck did they get away with it?

Actually, it was pretty simple. The two women who opened The Dog Bar, J.P. Brewer and Audra Hartness, say they faced no insurmountable hassles when they made plans to hang up their bone-shaped shingle and open for business

“The city kind of scratched its head, like, ‘OK, I guess.” said Hartness, who was tending bar when we dropped in this week.

Initially, the health department’s only concerns — since the bar doesn’t serve food — were the bar’s glassware and the temperature of the water used to wash it. When, about a month after opening, the bar did away with glassware entirely — opting for plastic cups and beer served only in aluminum cans — those concerns went out the window.

Though the bar doesn’t serve food, you can still eat there. There’s a plethora of interesting restaurants right there in the neighborhood, most of which offer takeout and/or delivery.

The operators say they’ve heard of only one or two bars in the country that allow dogs such access.

The bar was Brewer’s idea, and, as you might guess, it started with a dog.

Brewer adopted Foster, a Weimaraner, after his owner passed away from cancer. When she decided the doggie day care she dropped him off at was not providing a loving enough environment, she started one of her own — Club K-9, also located in  NoDa.

There, the visiting dogs had a good time. The dog owners would show up, socialize, then head home with their pooches. Brewer thought there should be a place where both dogs and owners can socialize, enjoy both inter- and intra-species interactions, and have some fun.

She formed a partnership with Hartness, one of her doggie daycare customers who had a background in running bars and restaurants. And in October, 2005, they opend the bar.

On a typical night, there might be 15 dogs in the joint, on Fridays even more.

We dropped in on a Sunday. Ace and a black Great Dane named Dungy (after the football coach) were the first to arrive. Dungy was ready to play. Ace, not quite sure what to make of a dog bigger than himself, mostly kept his distance. Soon more dogs arrived — a boxer named Dempsey (after the boxer, Jack); two more Great Danes, one blind, one deaf; and Zero, a first-time visitor.

“This place is fantastic,” Zero’s owner remarked the second she and her dog came through the double gates entrance. “It really is a dog bar!”

The bar charges a $10 lifetime membership fee, and requires proof of rabies vaccination, and that dogs over a year be spayed or neutered. There are no breed restrictions.

“As long  as the dog is friendly off leash, there’s no problem,” Hartness said.

The bar has a fenced outdoor area — complete with plastic palm trees and beach umbrellas — where dogs can run, play and sip from troughs of water. Sometimes, when the crowd gets too big, they fence off the parking lot as well. Inside the bar, which has windows opening onto the patio, one wall is covered with black and white photographs, taken by Brewer, of her dogs and many of the regular canine customers.

Non dog-lovers don’t always get it, Brewer told the Charlotte Observer in an interview a couple of years after The Dog Bar opened.

“You see people walk past here and they do a double-take,” she said. Once, two  elderly ladies drove up in the parking lot and asked, “What kinds of hot dogs do you sell?” 

But dog-lovers do. Hartness says dog owners know to bring only well-socialized dogs, and she advises those who appear to have trepidations about their dogs to come back when their pets are better socialized. Most, though, know their dogs limits.

The presence of dogs — four-legged icebreakers that they are — means conversations start and flow easily at The Dog Bar. If there are any awkward silences, a dog generally drops by to help fill them. There were no real altercations on the night I was there — human or dog — and the only damage done I could see/feel resulted from the tendency of Great Dane’s whip-like tails to be exactly at human groin level. When they get happy, watch out.

Other than that, the night was sheer joy, in the kind of place I’ve only dreamed about — where dogs and humans can enjoy each other and be themselves.

Here’s to a happy future for The Dog Bar.


While The Dog Bar is, beyond doubt, the dog friendliest establishment in Charlotte, there are many more dog-friendly locales.  Keep reading for the list.

Read more »

A moment in Oklahoma with my ex-cat

Not that visiting my ex’s is a recurring theme here or anything, but this week we checked in on another one — a homeless cat I first encountered underneath a stairway in Baltimore, next door to a bar, took into my home after hearing she’d been kicked around some, then struggled to find a forever home for.

As it turned out, forever would be in Oklahoma, and therein lies a story.

It was January of this year, and a big snow was on the way to the northeast when Miley temporarily moved in. Word was, some of the street toughs had been kicking her, and she’d snuck into and been thrown out of the two bars on the corner before taking refuge under the stairs.

At the time I didn’t know she was a she, so I dubbed her Miles.

I didn’t want to keep the cat, but figured — with ohmidog’s vast readership — I could post a video of him (still thinking she was a he) and someone would step forward to offer a home.

For months, no one stepped forward — not the cat’s previous owner, not a future one.

But then I heard from Kitty Diacon, who saw the video, read the story and said she’d love to have Miles, who by then was Miley — renamed after a visit to the vet, where she was checked out and determined to be spayed female.

Kitty lived in Oklahoma, but as it turned out, that wasn’t too big of a problem, as she was a truck driver and was able to schedule a load that would bring her near Baltimore.

I handed Miley over to Kitty in Frederick, Maryland, back in April, and made another video about that:

Miley logged thousands of miles in the truck before she got home and began adjusting to a new family in Waynoka, Oklahoma.

This week, our “Dog’s Country” travels — which were the reason I decided I couldn’t keep Miley — were taking us to the general vicinity of Oklahoma (i.e. Texas), so we called and asked if we could stop by for a visit with Miley.

Kitty was on the road, but she called and said I should drop by and see her husband John, who, due to a job-related medical disability, is home all the time. At the time she took Miley, she said she wanted her to help keep her husband company during the day.

A few readers expressed skepticism about it — worried that, given the animals in her truck, Kitty might have been one of those nefarious sorts who take in animals, then sell them to dogfighters or for use in medical labs.

In talking with her though, and especially after meeting her, I was convinced she was a true animal lover.

Turns out John is, too.

And he seems to have no shortage of company — eight dogs and three cats (not counting those Kitty was traveling with in the truck), two turtles, an 18-month old son and three baby possums he was nursing after his older son struck the momma possum with his car.

“We’ve got a soft spot for critters,” Kitty explains.

“Miley’s pretty well adusted,” Kitty said. “She’s getting John trained pretty good.” When her water dish runs dry, Miley goes and sits in the sink until the water is turned on. Then she likes to play with stream as it flows from the faucet.

She never did that at my house, but then I yelled at her when she jumped up on the kitchen counter.

When I stepped inside the Diacon’s home, Miley seemed to remember me immediately (or maybe that’s wishful thinking). She brushed up against me and let me pick her up, something she didn’t do that often when she lived with me.

She seemed used to all the other animal life in the home — even the new possums, which John was feeding milk to through a syringe.

John, a Navy veteran who was left with disc problems from driving a fertilizer truck and who’s still fighting his workmen’s comp case, spends time tending to the animals and his son, Patrick, and working on cars and radios in his garage.

John introduced me to the rest of the animals, and I spent a few more minutes petting Miley before saying goodbye.

If I had any doubts about Miley’s new home, they were gone by then.

(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America)

Miles, from nowhere — a cat story

For the past two weeks, on my way to the park with my dog, I’ve been stopping to see a cat.

He (or she) has been living underneath the wooden stairs in front of an empty rowhouse in South Baltimore, depending on the kindness of strangers, who have left him food and supplied him with a little cardboard house.

With temperatures dropping, and snow coming, and reports that he was getting kicked around on the street corner, I brought him home last night.

Now he needs a home.

Got one?

To inquire, contact me at muttsblog@verizon.net.

“John: The Man in the Window”


My outlaw art exhibit, a scheme dreamed up in a bar two months ago, came to its last-minute but highly successful fruition, in that same bar, last night.

Here’s the story. Two guys own a bar on Fort Avenue in Baltimore. Long ago it was called the End Zone. When they bought it five or so years ago, they reopened it as the Idle Hour, a more upscale — but not annoyingly so — establishment. I passed by it everyday on my way to the park, and the owners became friends with my dog Ace. I became a semi-regular customer.

As a semi-regular customer, I, like a lot of other customers, noticed that a man often appeared in a window across the street — staring out, often for long periods of time, from his second-floor room above what was until recently a hardware store.

While nobody knew much about the man — commonly referred to as The Window Guy  — he became, among customers, an instant legend, and a source of intrigue. His frequent appearances at his window led customers, who could see him through the Idle Hour’s front window, to start speculating — both on what he was up to and what his story was.

Often, he’d appear in his T-shirt or no shirt at all. While a lot of upscale establishments might be mortified and embarassed by such a spectacle, in full view of their customers, the owners of the tavern, though part of the gentrification that has and continues to take place in the neighborhood, took it in stride. As they’d shown by giving the bar, which had been through several incarnations, its original name back, they’re they types that have some appreciation for the neighborhood’s history, for its traditions, and for the curious mix of textures — from polyester to silk, from knit Izod to “wifebeater” T — that is south Baltimore

They also have an appreciation for art, and every month or so they feature the work of a new artist on their nail-hole riddled, wood-paneled walls.

How cool would it be, I thought to myself, and then shared with a select few others, to sneak in an exhibit, without the owners’ knowledge, in which every picture on every wall was one of The Window Guy?

For the next couple of months, I took my camera with me, and surreptitiously photographed the Window Guy when he was at his window, and out on the street. Conspiring with the bartending staff, I learned there would be a lull between exhibits — Lindsay Petrick was taking her work down, and agreed to do so a couple of days early, leaving a small window of opportunity until Jes Contro puts her art up.

On Friday, while the owners were out, I put up more than 30 framed photographs of The Window Guy, managing to get them up in an hour thanks to help from some friends — particularly the Baltimore Sun’s Sam Sessa , who I’d invited to see the exhibit but instead ended up hanging much of it, and Beau Seidel, who earlier Friday helped build the set for Bruce Springsteen’s concert.

As a practical joke, it went off without a hitch. Both owners walked in to see the previously bare walls covered with Window Guy art. While I was a little worried about how they might react to the unauthorized exhibit, both seemed to get a good laugh out of it. More surprisingly yet, it was a major hit, with about a third of the photos being sold on opening night — almost enough to recoup my investment.

One person even called it “very post modern,” which, since I’m not sure what that is, I will take as a compliment.

The exhibit is entitled “John: The Man in the Window.” Other than knowing his first name, I intentionally didn’t research John’s background, or talk to him, because the exhibit was more about mystery, speculations and assumptions than about the reality.  But I’m thinking the reality — learning about the man behind the enigma — might make for a good sequel.

Though I intended it as a one-night-only exhibit, the owners decided they will keep it up for a few more days — so feel free to drop by and see it. Chances are, while looking at the photos of The Window Guy, you’ll see the actual Window Guy as well, who, at this point, isn’t aware that there is an exhibit hanging in tribute to him across the street.

The Idle Hour is located at  201 E. Fort Ave.

Holy spirits: Bar is also a dog-friendly church

spiritsA non-denominational church is conducting dog-friendly Sunday services in a bar in Austin, Texas.

 The City Community Church meets at La Zona Rosa, a music venue and bar, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Church members say meeting in a bar and allowing dogs seem to make people feel more comfortable, and it only takes about an hour and a half to make the switch from bar to church — a simple matter of  cleaning up beer bottles.

Once the services are over, the establishment returns to being a bar.

It all got started a few months ago when the church started giving out breakfast tacos and dog biscuits to local dog walkers and bikers, said Scott Harmon, 50, who helped start the church. Soon members started encouraging dog walkers to stay and bring their pets inside, Harmon said, and the dogs proved to be very well-behaved.

“A few weeks ago, a German shepherd tried to eat one of the smaller dogs, which was a little awkward,” the Rev. Matthias Haeusel said. “But, generally, they’re very well-leashed.”

Haeusel said the church, one of many churches in Austin that meet in unconventional locations, has a core group of about 25 regular attendees.

“La Zona Rosa is a landmark that represents what Austin is proud of — the creativity, the music,” Haeusel said. “What better place for our church?”

Harmon says the decision was also based on the desire to leave a “light-footprint church. Our strategy is to use buildings already there. It doesn’t make sense to have a building used only on Sunday.”

Harmon said he and a small group of church members arrive at 8:30 a.m. each Sunday to clean up beer bottles and put up baby gates to block off the pool tables and the area behind the bar.

Even though letting in dogs draws attention to the church, Haeusel says that members don’t want to be defined by that.

“It’s easy to get pigeonholed as the ‘dog church,’ but we’re about Jesus. We just happen to be in a place where people can bring dogs,” he said. “This isn’t a gimmick. We’re just trying to love our neighbors.”