This New Orlando Bar Is Also a Dog Park, and We Want to Live There
Everything changed the moment Paul Jaszczenski and Lainie Pekich brought home their German shepherd, Kaia. Like a newborn child, they hardly ever wanted to leave her alone, so they did what most pup owners do––take her everywhere and hope no one complains. But they quickly realized there was a lack of restaurants and bars in Central Florida that welcomed dogs like Kaia.
“Even when we did find a restaurant, Kaia wasn’t happy stuck under a table,” Pekich says. “She was hot and miserable. When we took her to a dog park, Paul and I were bored, sweaty, and in need of a cocktail.”
That’s when Jaszczenski and Pekich, both entrepreneurs, turned to each other and said, “Let’s open a dog bar.” Now more than two years later, the couple is nearing the debut of Boozehounds, which will become Central Florida’s first dog bar. If you’re not entirely sure what a dog bar is, think of it as a sprawling off-leash park where pups roam free while owners drink beer and cocktails.
“Everyone thought we were nuts when we told them about our idea,” Jaszczenski says. “But we did a lot of research and realized there are similar concepts all across the country, just none in Central Florida. We traveled to a handful of them and learned what worked and what could be improved on.”
When Boozehounds opens less than five miles south of Downtown Orlando later this summer, a 2,000-square-foot full-service bar will be set up within retrofitted shipping containers. Inside, there will be multiple flat-screen televisions and a lineup of food and drink (some of which will be dog-inspired). Though menus are still in development, expect local and domestic beer, wine, and cocktails created by Bitters & Bombs Bartending, as well as “dog beer,” a chicken broth-based liquid served in a beer-like bottle. Local food trucks will be invited to park right outside of the property, and nearby restaurants will supply additional bites. Dog owner or not, the couple says the bar is open to all.
“This will be a sports bar just as much as it will be a dog park,” Pekich says. “You don’t need a dog to enjoy a nice cold beer. It’s also an excuse to play with other people’s dogs. Who doesn’t love that?”
The bar will open up onto a 2,000-square-foot lower deck, which will be slightly elevated for customers to keep an eye out for their dog, and right above, there will be an 800-square-foot rooftop. The park itself is about one-third of an acre, largely made up of turf, natural grass, and gravel with interactive equipment. There’s also a fenced area for puppies and elderly dogs.
“We definitely have the space for dogs to run free,” Pekich says. “We also have a ton of natural shade from large oak trees. Once we’re open, we’ll incorporate live music, market lights, and even a gas fire pit. We’re trying to create a whole ambiance with it.”
Jaszczenski and Pekich, who met playing flag football more than a decade ago while studying at the University of Central Florida, wanted to add a sustainable component to the concept, which is why they chose shipping containers as the bar’s structure.
“It’s neat and green,” Jaszczenski says. “I spent 20 years in the steel industry, so it makes sense. But putting it together and finding the right architect has definitely taken time. We’ve been working on this for about two years now.”
Boozehounds’ off-leash park will be membership-based with different options priced between $10 for a day or $140 for an annual pass. There will be a list of rules owners must comply with, ranging from no fleas and ticks to vaccination documentation.
“The State of Florida has regulations that require us to keep records of off-leash dogs,” Pekich says. “Anybody can come to bar and even bring their dog, so long as it’s on a leash. The only ones who need a membership are the owners with dogs who want to run around.”
For now, the couple plans to open Boozehounds sometime in the summer but won’t say exactly when they expect the property to be ready.
“Just as much as we want to become a place where dogs and owners can have a good time, we also want to promote local pet adoption,” Pekich says. “Millennials don’t want kids right now. They want dogs and we’re here for it.”
Boozehounds. 5501 S. Orange Ave., Orlando, FL.