A little over a year after it was announced, the Boozy Mutt dog bar is nearing the finish line and preparing to open its doors to humans and canines.
The restaurant-bar-indoor/outdoor dog park comes courtesy of Allison and Sam Mattiola. The couple has thoughtfully reconfigured the corner of 27th and Poplar, the dilapidated site of former rock venue North Star Bar, into a brightly-lit hangout spot where dogs can roam unleashed and with menu items and amenities for all.
“First and foremost, we are a bar and restaurant,” Sam said, explaining that while the concept may appeal to and intrigue dog owners and enthusiasts, he hopes the venue’s food, booze, and doggie treats ultimately serve as the Mutt’s main draw.
The couple developed their business plan during the pandemic, shortly after getting their own dog, a Bernedoodle named Buda. While visiting Allison’s family in Florida, they came across dog bars.
These establishments, Sam explained, mostly operated like beer gardens with alcohol as their main source of revenue. It got the Mattiolas thinking about something more appropriate for Philadelphia’s climate and reflective of its culinary reputation.
“Food matters here, more than almost any city probably in the country,” said Sam. “So we want to have a kick-ass food menu here that we can be really proud of.”
An initial chef had developed a menu of gastropub cuisine with vegan and gluten free options, but had to step away for medical reasons. The couple is currently in the process of interviewing a replacement to run the kitchen and put their own stamp on the offerings.
There are 12 taps for beer, and several more for a range of craft cocktails concocted by general manager Travis Roupp.
“Expect punny names,” Allison said: The Working Dog is a take on an Old Fashioned; there’s an espresso martini dubbed the Zoomies; and the Barkarita is self-explanatory. The citywide comes with a dog biscuit.
Designing the space, Sam told Billy Penn, “was a matter of finding the right balance between dogs and people.”
Park-style double gates allow for unleashing while preventing other dogs from entering or escaping. There’s minimal seating across the first floor for dogs to roam untethered.
To accommodate that, all food and drink orders are fulfilled through QR codes and a trio of pickup windows, and can be taken by customers to any of the seating options available throughout the bi-level space. The second floor’s main room provides seating for about 45 along shared tables and a counter.
The outside area is artificially turfed, its seating equipped with heaters or umbrellas, depending on the season. Towards the rear on the ground floor, a self-serve dog bath is stocked with towels and shampoo, offering a more controlled environment for people who “don’t want to get their homes wrecked by their dogs,” Sam said.
On the second floor, past a bust of a French bulldog, is the private event area — the Boozy Mutt’s “pawty room, if you will,” said Allison.
The sunny corner space is suitable for everything, she explained, from doggie birthday parties to an already-booked (human) rehearsal dinner. It was also designed to fit the needs of anyone working “from bar,” solo or collaboratively, with a surplus of power outlets and a wall-mounted flatscreen for video conferencing.
Other screens throughout the two floors will be used for local sports broadcasts and screenings catering to the tastes of the community the Boozy Mutt aims to build. Dog-themed movies were mentioned.
Cat-lovers, happily, are not prohibited from the venue; instead encouraged to seek out a surprise tucked away somewhere in the 6,500 square-foot front-of-house space.
‘Life’s better unleashed,’ but there are strict rules
Dogs will be monitored by on-site “rufferees,” who, other than keeping the space clean and orderly, will have received training from veterinarians and professional handlers on recognizing early signs of non-good-boi behavior. Excessive rowdiness will result in a flagging and possible ban.
The couple stressed that even with “life’s better unleashed” as their business motto, pet-owners will be encouraged to keep a close eye on their canines.
There are rules for all. Humans must be 21+ and sign liability waivers, pet owner or not, “given that there are animals throughout the facility,” Allison explained.
All dogs must be members, with profiles that include up-to-date vaccination records and liability forms filled by their owners. Membership is available on a yearly ($360), monthly ($40), or daily ($10-$15) basis. Fees are halved for a second dog and beyond, but visitors are restricted to bringing in two at a time — any additional pupper must have an extra accompanying chaperone.
Challenges have been frequent, the Mattiolas said, from the scale of the refurbishment to keeping up with inflation to navigating an unfamiliar business model. The pair still maintain nine-to-fives in healthcare to support building the Boozy Mutt from scratch.
They’re hesitant to talk about a specific opening date, but are targeting early December.
“We’ve been knocked down more times than we can count,” said Sam, who added that the key to success so far has been surrounding themselves with more-experienced members of the industry. “We’ll be the first people to admit there are things we just don’t know. But we’re going to work harder than anybody else out there.”
They’re also eager to give back. A program serving a rotation of charities is in the works, Allison said, using proceeds from dog tags printed and sold to members’ owners.
It all amounts, they hope, to a space that’s “cheeky, fun, lighthearted, a place for people to relax and meet up with their friends,” said Allison. “That’s our goal. To make people happy.”
2639 Poplar St | 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, hours subject to change | Opening December | theboozymutt.com