Austinites love their dogs. We take our four-legged friends to parks and to brunch, dress them in costumes for charity parades, and adopt them from shelters at a pace that has made Austin one of the largest no-kill cities in the nation. And all of us will rejoice at former architect Kristen Heaney's 2009 career-changing epiphany. "I was spending lots of time at Auditorium Shores with a friend and his sweet chocolate lab," Heaney explains. "We'd hang out at the park with our beers cleverly disguised in coffee cups, and we started wondering, 'Why can't we have a beer at the dog park?' The more research I did, the more excited I got, the bigger the project became." The product of her passion will come to fruition this summer, when Yard Bar (www.yardbar.com) opens at the old Putt-Putt site on Burnet Road.
The membership-based dog park, restaurant, and bar will offer unique amenities for dogs and their owners. The park will include agility and play equipment, staff to scoop the poop and keep the peace, clean and shaded seating, space heaters and mister fans for year-round enjoyment, and wi-fi, while the bar part of the equation includes quality coffee, craft beers, and wine, as well as beer- and wine-based, dog-themed cocktails. In the restaurant adjacent to the dog park, guests with or without dogs can enjoy lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch from a simple, snacky menu. Of course, there will be house-made dog treats, and even a chicken broth-based, non-alcoholic dog beer. Membership and fees apply to dogs only, and are very reasonable. Heaney expects Yard Bar to "be the first choice for dog birthday parties, breed meetups, and pet industry events."
Aside from 12 years of architectural project management experience, Heaney spent many years in fine dining, working at places like Mirabelle and Eddie V's. "I've often told people that my favorite job has been hosting in restaurants," explains Heaney. "You get to dress up, take care of people, engage with people, solve problems and put out fires, all with a smile on your face. Though I had lots of success in architecture, it just never felt quite right. When the inspiration for Yard Bar came, I couldn't shake it. I quit my job just over a year ago, and now we're on track to open Yard Bar this summer."
Demolition and site repairs will start in February under the direction of Tray Toungate and Becky Jeanes at Designtrait. "The Putt-Putt site has been my muse for the project since 2010," says Heaney. "It is perfect: a huge lot with big shade trees, a small building in need of renovating, a huge parking lot, and all of the charm of a place that Austinites have loved for years. At the time, another business had the lease on the property. I panicked. I had to have Putt-Putt. Fortunately for me, the tenants weren't able to follow through, and at the beginning of 2013 we started serious conversations with the landlord. They are great people, and our goals for Yard Bar aligned well with their intentions for the property. I'm so excited to bring life back to this site." Renovations include an 800-plus square-foot addition including a full kitchen and bar, new accessible restrooms, complete park renovation, new fencing, refurbishing select Putt-Putt holes for play, and repairing the parking lot.
Of course, all of this takes money. In addition to the funds already raised through private equity, Heaney is currently crowdfunding through the Greenman Perks Portal. "This campaign gives us an opportunity to rally the community and offer great membership discounts and swag to our early supporters," says Heaney. "The support provided by Greenman and their numerous resources has really helped define the Yard Bar concept. I'm delighted to see our fan base grow as word about Yard Bar spreads through Austin and surrounding communities." All I know is my tiny pack and I can hardly wait.
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