OKC VeloCity | Bar K operators excited about future site in Boathouse District

Bar K operators excited about future site in Boathouse District

By Molly Fleming / Development / January 17, 2020

Oklahoma City will be the second location for a growing Kansas City-based bar and restaurant concept, which has developed the furriest fan base.

Bar K will be the first commercial development in the Boathouse District, opening early 2021. It will sit on the north side of Riversport Rapids. The bar is more than drinks and food. The two-acre site has two dog parks; one park inside and one outside.

Operating partner Leib Dodell said when he and the other operators were considering opening a second location, they looked at the Midwest so they could still be close to their existing venue.

“When we got to Oklahoma City and Tammy Fate introduced us to the Boathouse District and to Mike Knopp, it was immediately obvious to us that we should go there,” said Dodell.

Fate, who oversees retail development and recruitment for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, said Bar K was a good fit for the Boathouse District because the concept doesn’t depend on people coming there to eat and drink. The admission costs for the dog park, such as the annual membership, will help Bar K be an integral part of the Boathouse District for years to come, she said.

Dodell said the Boathouse was a good fit for Bar K for many reasons, including the large open area and being on the river trail. In Kansas City, Bar K hosts weekly run-with-your-dog nights and an annual 5 kilometer race and there are plans to do that in Oklahoma City. Having a central location that’s off the highway was integral as well, he said.

Dodell said within the first year, Bar K in Kansas City had about 200,000 visitors.

Boathouse District Foundation Executive Director Mike Knopp, a Kansas City native, said when he visited Bar K, it felt like a great fit for the Boathouse District.

“It’s a perfect complement to what we’ve been building, which is a place that really bolsters the outdoor lifestyle,” he said. “When I visited in Kansas City, Bar K was packed. Having attractions like this will help the district become a year-round destination.”

The Boathouse District spans from Interstate 35 to Lincoln Avenue, stretching across both sides of the river. The Boathouse Foundation also manages the watercraft operations and other programming at Lake Hefner and Lake Overholser.

Knopp said it’s been important to have the right partner for the first commercial development, though other operators have approached the Boathouse District on being in the area.

“We think this will be a catalyst for more development,” Knopp said.

The concept will offer alcohol and fast casual-type food not only for dog owners, but to people along the river trail as well. Dodell said the operators didn’t skimp on the human food options. The team hired one of Kansas City’s top chefs and one of the area’s best mixologists to create a food and drink menu.

“We were very mindful of not falling into the trap of being the only dog park with food, so the food doesn’t have to be that good,” Dodell said. “We want our human guests to have as overwhelming an experience as the dogs.”

Humans can enjoy the delicious fare while the dog-trained staff watch over the four-legged family members. This allows guests to relax and visit with their friends, instead of monitoring their pets like at a typical dog park. There’s a dog-only play area inside and a separate dog-free dining area. Outside, owners can interact with their dog while having a drink, but food is not allowed.  

There’s also an area at Bar K called Petfinder Park where pet adoption agencies can bring dogs in need of a home. Rescue groups are invited to bring dogs every weekend.

Dodell credited Fate helping the concept come to the city. She worked with Bar K on getting a retail incentive, which she said will be used to help build a parking lot and develop other needed infrastructure.

As a cyclist herself, Fate said she’s excited about the new food and drink option along the river.

“I can’t wait for it to open,” she said. “I think it will be a home run.”

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