UPDATE: A four-day "pup-up" preview of The Dog Cafe is coming soon to L.A. Details are at the end of the post.
We've all been following L.A.'s yearlong attempt to obtain its own adorable, Tokyo-style cat cafe, where you can get a coffee and then pay for a set amount of time to cuddle the hell out of all the cats that are nonchalantly roaming around the shop.
Now the next level of Asian-style pet cafes is in the works. For anyone who thought the cat cafe concept unfairly leaves out the other half of the city's domesticated animal lovers, meet the Dog Cafe, which hopes to be America's first cafe full of lovable, pettable, adoptable dogs.
In Korea, where the Dog Cafe founder Sarah Wolfgang volunteered at private animal shelters and found forever homes for multiple special-needs Fidos, dog cafes are a popular attraction. For the price of a coffee or tea, patrons can sit in a regular-looking restaurant and pet, cuddle, interact with and be entirely surrounded by dogs of all shapes, sizes and personalities.
Most of these dog cafes, however, are for-profit businesses that buy pure-bred puppies from puppy mills and have little interest in rescuing or adopting out any of the animals. Wolfgang envisions using the cuteness for a better cause.
"The Dog Cafe’s mission is simple. We want to provide a second chance for shelter dogs that are often overlooked," she says. "The Dog Cafe is going to put a spin on the way people adopt by totally reinventing the way we connect with homeless dogs."
Working with rescue groups both locally and in Korea, the Dog Cafe will be stocked with dozens of dogs up for adoption, who are able to roam around freely and hang with potential adopters in an environment that is very unlike a high-stress animal shelter. Because many Angelenos live in apartments and can't have a dog of their own, patrons also are welcome just to come in and get their dog fix.
"The Dog Cafe is for everyone," Wolfgang says. "We want people to come in and cuddle with our pooches even if they aren't interested in adopting."
For the cafe portion of the project — which is basically just coffee and tea, since food makes dogs territorial — Wolfgang is keeping it in the dog-rescue community by using Santa Monica–based coffee roaster Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co., which donates 20 percent of its profit from each purchase to a local shelter. Expect to be able to order the company's appropriately themed blend names at the Dog Cafe: Alpha Blend, Morning Walk Blend and Paper & Slippers Blend.
Because of L.A. Health Department regulations, the cafe must be split into two areas: the drink service counter and the "dog zone." If you just want coffee, come in, grab it and go. If you want to hang with some dogs, take your drink into the "dog zone," a sectioned-off area that keeps the animals separate from the drink preparation. So that the animals can stay overnight, the Dog Cafe also must be located in an industrial zone.
Now through Feb. 5, the Dog Cafe's GoFundMe is attempting to raise $200,000 to help fund the massive, double-duty space necessary to make America's first dog cafe a reality.
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"My passion is in animal rescue," Wolfgang says. "My biggest concern is people see how the pop-up cat cafe in New York was bustling and may see pet cafes a way for profit.. and it can definitely be upsetting. When we talk about these dog and cat cafes, we're not merely talking about a business but about the lives of these pets."
For more information on the Dog Cafe plans or to contribute to the Dog Cafe's crowd-funding campaign, click here.
UPDATED SATURDAY, JANUARY 17, 11:17AM: From January 22-25, The Dog Cafe will be hosting a "pup-up" pop-up dog cafe in downtown, not unlike the Catfe pop-up in Chinatown last year, except with actual drinks. You can buy a ticket at the door for $15 and then buy your cup of Grounds and Hounds coffee separately, or you can donate $20 to The Dog Cafe's GoFundMe campaign and receive a pre-sale voucher good for entry and your first cup of joe. The Dog Cafe will be "pupping-up" from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. all four days at 828 South Los Angeles Street in downtown.