L.A.'s Spot for Real Bar Hounds
Bringing man's best friend along on a trip to Los Angeles has gotten a little easier, thanks to SkyBark, a nightspot where dogs are not only allowed but welcomed. A cross between a singles bar and a dog park, SkyBark features a full bar and live music, making it easy for canines and their owners to mingle and check each other out.
SkyBark is the brainchild of Ralph Diaz, owner of Top Dog Canine Leather, and Brandon Hochman, inventor of the PETaPOTTY, a portable box of grass that's used to toilet-train dogs. The partners were looking for a way to stage a benefit for four-legged survivors of Hurricane Katrina when they held their first event in March.
They scouted around for locations before settling on the roof of the PETaPOTTY headquarters just east of downtown. It's a pretty deserted area at night, so that makes for unobstructed views of the L.A. skyline.
The party was such a smash -- they raised $4,000 for New Leash on Life, a Southern California animal shelter -- that Hochman and Diaz decided to turn it into a business. Since then, they've expanded the party to cities such as Boston and Las Vegas, and have had inquiries about locations in New York and San Francisco.
The partners converted the western half of the rooftop into a 50-by-50-foot grass-covered play area for dogs (Hochman calls it the doggie dance floor) complete with tennis balls, chew toys and a doggie tunnel.
The bone-shaped kiddie pool is a bit too small for a swim, but makes an ideal spot for dogs to slake their thirst. Specialty cocktails for dogs, made from vitamin-infused Doggie Springs water, are served in canine-friendly martini glasses at a snoot-level rail. A full bar and waiter service allows dog owners to enjoy their favorite cocktails, while a band or DJ keeps the party hopping.
SkyBark is open only for special occasions, such as the upcoming "Howl-a-ween" party and costume contest on Oct. 27. Each event is a benefit, with proceeds from a silent auction and a portion of admission fees going to a local animal rescue society. Tickets are usually about $20 per person and $10 per dog in advance or $30 and $15 at the door. Select companies of interest to dog owners provide goody bags -- it wouldn't be an L.A. event without swag, now would it? At a July 4th barbecue, dogs chomped on complimentary White Bites treats and got free grooming makeovers from Town & Country pet spa.
Christine Buckley, a movie industry executive with Lakeshore Entertainment, attended the July 4 event. She and her boxer mix, Yoda, enjoyed the rooftop vantage point while dozens of fireworks celebrations lit the skies across Los Angeles. Yoda has severe separation anxiety and can't be left alone, so Buckley jumped at the opportunity to "escape for an evening out without having to line up a dog-sitter. My only complaint is that SkyBark isn't open more often."
Hochman says he's looking to address that, but a permanent liquor license and health regulations are still hurdles. Plus, the roof garden's maximum capacity of 300 people is too small for SkyBark ever to be a big moneymaker. Hochman says he breaks even.
But that's not deterring him from trying to expand the concept to other parts of the country. A Boston outpost, dubbed SkyBark East, debuted Aug. 27 at a billiards-themed club called The Rack (24 Clinton St.), which will host another event Oct. 19.
"I'm hoping to start a trend," Hochman says. "I want people everywhere to be able to take their dogs to a club on a Saturday night and live it up."
-- John Rosenthal