Despite the building for it being purchased on April Fools’ Day, a new dog bar concept coming to Sarasota is no joke.
Called Boo’s Ice House and Dog Bar, it’s expected to open in October on 10th Street in the Rosemary District, just north of downtown Sarasota.
The original construction of the building in 1947-48 was for an ice house — a place to store ice and facilitate deliveries. The name, Boo’s Ice House and Dog Bar, pays homage to the building’s original use.
Boo’s founders, Mindy Kauffman and her husband, Bobby Boivin, started going to a similar concept in St. Petersburg about five years ago. The gist: a bar and restaurant with outdoor and indoor areas attached for dogs to play.
“We were just blown away by how fun it was,” Kauffman says, also noting they continued to visit every time they were in the area.
Each time they went the couple’s thinking would change. First it was, “This is so cool. They should have one of these in Sarasota.” But that turned into, “Hey, we should put one in Sarasota.”
Finally, they began planning Boo’s Ice House and Dog Bar — named after their youngest rescue dog, Boo, who is around four or five years old. They also have another rescue named Raven, 15, whom they refer to as the Queen of the House.
It took a year to find the perfect location that would accommodate both indoor and outdoor needs for what’s described as a dog-centric social club with an attached bar and restaurant.
They closed on the 10th Street property for $1.35 million on April 1, 2020. The couple has since invested “too much,” according to Boivin, in bringing the project to life. Kauffman noted they don’t have exact numbers yet on how much they’ve paid in construction costs.
“We wanted to be downtown to serve as a community draw for all the apartments and condos,” says Kauffman, whose father is well-known Sarasota property owner Mark Kauffman. “The apartments and condos did not use to allow dogs. And now they all do. Now, every time you drive or walk through Rosemary District, there’s always people walking dogs. So we thought it would be the perfect location.”
Initially, the plan was to open this summer. But with supply delays and a few other hurdles, they’re looking at an Oct. 1 soft opening. Still, construction delays weren’t the toughest thing they’ve had to tackle. “The biggest challenge was to figure out how we could get it through zoning,” Kauffman says.
Before settling on a location, the duo knew they needed indoor and outdoor space. On 10th Street, the concept will feature 3,500 square feet of interior dog space and 2,500 square feet of exterior dog space. On top of the indoor and outdoor gated dog areas, there’s going to be a restaurant and bar indoor area that is separate, but in view of, the dog areas.
Finding a location that accommodated all of those needs took some time. And then they had to go through the Sarasota County Health Department to determine the logistics of allowing dogs in an establishment that also serves alcohol.
“There’s just a lot of different regulations you have to skirt through,” Kauffman says. Although she and Boivin agree that navigating the county health department was the easiest part, even though the couple went through about five drafts of drawings until the county signed off on it.
“They said, ‘If you build this, we will come,'” Boivin says of the fifth building plan. “So that’s what we’re building right now.”
Much like every other construction project in the region, they’ve run into issues finding labor and supplies. “It’s been a headache, but we’re fighting through it,” Boivin says.
Being in construction himself, Boivin, owner of Gator Creations, did the demolition work early on and is overseeing the rest of the work. During the demolition, Boivin saved everything he could, including every 2×4 he took down from the walls.
“Some of the stuff I recycled, you can’t get today,” he says. “It’s a good thing I saved all of that.”
Currently, Boivin says the biggest part of construction is about 60% done, with rough inspections starting to take place for plumbing and electrical. Once those are complete, they can start putting in drywall.
When Boo’s Ice House and Dog Bar opens in October, the restaurant will only be open for dinner and they’ll offer doggy daycare. Kauffman says they’ll eventually expand into lunch and brunch. The future opportunities have space for doing some good in the community as well.
“We want to incorporate nonprofit rescues and shelters in some way,” she says. “We’ll allow them a place for fundraising and parties.”
And the future plans don’t stop there.
“We have a dream to do a Boo’s Backyard, ideally by the Interstate 75 and Fruitville area,” Kauffman says, adding, “it would be a different model.”
The possible future model would include a larger area for the dogs to run, whereas the downtown location is more suited toward the community coming together.
“What we like about it is that it encourages people socialization,” she says. “The dogs don’t care what it looks like.”