Bar K Lab is Stage 1 in its owners’ quest to build the better dog park — and it’s already great

Bar K founders Dave Hensley and Leib Dodell set out to create a better dog park. They’re a few months from realizing their vision, but I say mission accomplished. The work-in-progress version of the business is already vastly superior to any dog park I’d visited before dropping by last month.

Bar K Lab (515 Liberty Street) is the temporary home of the full-on Bar K slated to open early next year: a sprawling, 80,000-square-foot private dog park — with a full restaurant, a bar and a coffee shop — in a space under the Heart of America bridge, between Berkley Riverfront Park and the River Market. In the 12,000 or so square feet of the rough draft, you see the promise of what is to come.

Though Bar K will, in its final iteration, be an outdoor space first, the lab is indoors, in an old warehouse owned by Port KC (which also owns the land that Bar K is being built on). The location provides a safe and welcoming environment for dogs of all kinds, and it’s professionally staffed; that is, the people on hand mind the animals’ behavior and assist with necessary cleanup.

Play equipment includes a baby pool filled with tennis balls, a splash pool and all the ramps and stairs any dog could desire. Most days, there’s an all-dogs-welcome policy, but there also are dedicated nights for puppies, shy dogs and special-needs animals, offering a respite for those typically unable to bring their companions to typical dog parks. 

Of course, there’s a bonus for bipeds: an affordable selection of beer, wine, cocktails and nonalcoholic drinks. The park-plus-bar atmosphere leads to a far more social climate than your average dog park, one where people don’t seem to have arrived with the sole goal of wearing out their dogs.

On recent visits, I’ve met dogs and humans of all varieties: giant greyhounds and tiny pugs and bull terriers, Australian shepherds and Frenchies. Everyone seems sincerely to want to meet everyone else’s dog.

Consensus: pure fun. Seriously. It’s the greatest. 

Memberships to Bar K lab are $115 a year, or $10 for a single visit (plus $5 for each additional dog). The membership price will likely increase once the permanent location opens. See barkdogbar.com for details. 

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