Editor's note: In an effort to help stop the spread of coronavirus, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered all Florida bars to close March 17 for at least 30 days. Hair of the Dog is thus temporarily closed.
Pooches and their humans are howling with delight at the news they’ve been patiently awaiting. Hair of the Dog, a local dog park doubling as a bar -- the first of its kind in Tampa -- is finally open.
It all started in the summer of 2015 when Todd Goldfarb and his wife, Dr. Mara Balda, were enjoying drinks with their dog at The Independent in Seminole Heights.
“My dog is a barker, and I was mortified,” says Goldfarb. “My wife turned to me and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place you could let the dog off-leash and still get a beer?’”
And the rest is history.
Goldfarb and Balda are now proud co-owners of Hair of the Dog, located at the southeast corner of North Nebraska Avenue and Genessee Street in Seminole Heights.
“There’s a lot of dog lovers in Tampa. Tampa has many beautiful dog parks, but we’re the only one where you can get a beer.”
The couple has lived in Seminole Heights for a decade and wanted to build the dog park there, but it did not come without its obstacles.
Goldfarb had never owned a business, let alone a dog park. That’s a whole different bag of treats.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” admits Goldfarb. “But the good thing is that we didn’t quit. We rumbled, bumbled, and stumbled our way. We showed some grit and pushed through.”
The City of Tampa wanted to see Hair of the Dog succeed from the start; it was just a question of how.
“It’s such an oddball business,” Goldfarb says. “It didn’t fit into the ordinary brick and mortar business; it didn’t fit into a category.”
Goldfarb was told by the city that he would need to garner community support to get the dog park off the ground. Community support meant attending multiple neighborhood association meetings to present his plan, answer questions, and work with them the best he could.
“[The neighborhood associations] are all great and very active,” he says. “I’ve lived in a lot of places; I’ve never seen a neighborhood care so much.”
Success took patience, persistence, process
In March of 2017, Goldfarb and Balda partnered with Brew Bus on Florida Avenue to throw a pre-City Council meeting party that offered dog park supporters a free craft beer and a T-shirt. Then they boarded the Brew Bus to head downtown for what would be a critical step in the dog park’s lifecycle -- zoning.
“Everybody stood up and made speeches on behalf of the dog park,” Goldfarb says. “The council had no choice but to vote in favor. They had 40 people in T-shirts saying that they wanted [the dog park]. How were they going to say no? If they hadn’t shown up, there’s no way in the world this would’ve happened.”
Once zoning was approved, it was time to build. With beautiful trees on .72 acres, Goldfarb immediately fell in love with the vacant lot where Hair of the Dog now stands.
“It was just an empty lot with a world of potential for 20 years,” he says.
Initially, the plan was for the concession stand structure to be made from a shipping container, like Sparkman Wharf, due to its low environmental footprint.
“Eight months down the drain,” says Goldfarb. “It was trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole; it just wasn’t meant to be. We had to take a step back.”
The footprint of the bar is small, but the land itself is vast. Goldfarb and Balda wanted the dogs to have plenty of room to run and play. It’s all about the four-legged friends anyway.
“It’s not a bar you bring your dog to; it’s a dog park where you can get a beer,” says Goldfarb.
For human consumption, Hair of the Dog has a rotating tap list of local craft beer. Currently, eight brews from Angry Chair, Coppertail Brewing Co., Brew Bus, and Hidden Springs represent the microbrewery town of Tampa. For those who prefer vino, there are four house wines.
“We’re trying to find the tastes of the neighborhood, so that’s a learning curve,” Goldfarb says.
There are plans for food trucks outside the park’s confines; however, for safety reasons, food is not permitted in the park as some dogs are food-aggressive. For the same reason, dog food, treats, and toys are also not allowed.
A shady spot for canines and their companions
Minimalist by design, the park features picnic tables, Adirondack chairs, and lots of shade under two massive grand oaks and a camphor tree. Once summer hits, both human and furry patrons will be thankful for the shade.
Within the fence’s 17,000 square feet are separate areas for large and small canines. Small dogs can mix and mingle on the large dog side at the owner’s discretion, but the big dogs cannot hang on the little dog side. Park rangers monitor the dogs’ interactions and intervene with a whistle if things get too rowdy.
Although no one really likes rules, Hair of the Dog has a set of them for good reason -- safety of humans and their dogs. These non-negotiable regulations (https://www.hairofthedogparkandbar.com/dog-park-rules) must be reviewed prior to dog park access.
Goldfarb stressed the requirement that all pup patrons have the Bordetella vaccine -- a noncore vaccine that is given to dogs that are frequently exposed to other dogs in boarding or social settings to prevent kennel cough.
“There’s so much social interaction between the dogs that they have to have it,” he says. Owners will need to show proof of current vaccinations before they can enter.
Membership fees are structured as daily or annually. It’s $5 for a pass, which allows unlimited visits for the day or $50 unlimited visits for the year; two dogs (or more) are $75 for the year. There is no entrance fee for poochless patrons.
Goldfarb encourages people to try the dog park for a day and see if they like it.
“We’ve had a lot of people try it for the day and then buy a membership for the year, so that means it’s working,” he says.
Hair of the Dog, 4211 N. Nebraska Ave., is open 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; Fridays 3 to 10 p.m.; Saturdays noon to 10 p.m.; and Sundays noon to 7 p.m. It’s closed on Monday for maintenance.
For more information, follow Hair of the Dog on Facebook