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What it’s like to visit Park-9, a bar for dogs (and their people)

Imagine being on the set of Puppy Bowl, but with cocktails

Park-9 Dog Bar in Everett is not just dog-friendly, it's "dog-forward."Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

EVERETT — I can hear the barking as soon as my date and I are out of the car. Me: dark-haired professional, food-motivated, available for long walks and belly rubs. Her: golden-haired professional shedder, even more food-motivated, seeking human to do her bidding. We got together during the pandemic, a common dog-owner relationship story. And on this sunny Saturday, we are checking out a new hot spot, which currently has a line out the door.

Park-9 Dog Bar — “where dogs bring their humans” — opened a month ago in Everett’s Fermentation District, home to the likes of Bone Up Brewing Co., Night Shift Brewing, and Short Path Distillery. The first of its kind in this area, the project combines indoor and outdoor dog parks and doggie day care with a full-service bar and entertainment space. It was started by Emily Gusse and Tess Kohanski, who are married, and Chris Kohanski, Tess’s brother. (A commercial real estate agent, Tess previously worked for the City of Everett as an economic development planner, so she knows the market well.)

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The group was inspired by a similar concept that opened a few years back in Minnesota. They thought, “Wow, that’s genius. Why doesn’t that exist here?,” says Gusse. She and Tess have a golden retriever named Nora, and they love to bring her with them wherever they can. In the City of Boston, there will soon be more opportunities to do that, as restaurants with patios and beer gardens can apply for a new “dog-friendly spaces” variance that takes effect June 1. But doesn’t Nora deserve more than just a spot beneath the table? Park-9 centers the pup’s experience, too.

“We are providing a space that is dog-forward, not just dog-friendly,” says Tess Kohanski.

Goldie and I are here for that.

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People check their dogs in at Park-9 Dog Bar in Everett.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

The line at Park-9 moves quickly, as humans check in. Many have registered online in advance, uploading their dogs’ vaccination records. Rabies, DHLPP/Da2PP, and Bordetella vaccines are required, and dogs older than 1 must be spayed or neutered. I handle the business side of things, paying $15 for a weekend day pass, while Goldie gets the party started. And by that I mean “sniffs so many butts.”

Park-9 is located in a brick building from the late 1800s, the longtime home of cement company Coleman Manufacturing. Some elements from that history have been preserved — a lathe here, gears there — lending a cool, industrial feeling to the 10,000-plus square feet of space. Old wood floors with character at the bar by the entrance give way to more moppable surfaces as we round the corner into the main space. I’m eyeing the banquettes and doggie divans in the lounge, but my better half reminds me we are here to socialize, not just eat and drink. I cast a wistful glance back at the Tibetan momo pop-up taking place, sniffing the tantalizing spices in the air as Goldie urges me onward.

There are on-leash areas where dogs can hang out while their people eat, mingle, and play shuffleboard. But the real action happens past a double gate in the off-leash park, where no food is allowed. I bring Goldie past the first gate, remove her leash, and open the door to the inner sanctum.

Why can’t the human bar experience be more like this? A frisky mutt, a Great Pyrenees mix, and a floppy golden floof immediately run toward my dog. They have absolutely no chill. They are just so happy to see her. There is a frenzy of tail-wagging, sniffing, and wrestling, and then suddenly everyone is on their way, hurtling in opposite directions to the next encounter. There are as many humans as dogs in here, ordering drinks at a second bar area, dressed in casual style — shorts and T-shirts, athleisure ensembles, patterned button-downs, cute summer dresses. It’s like being inside Puppy Bowl, but with cocktails. Living the dream!

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A brunch plate for dogs at Park-9.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

A woman is curled on the floor with my dog, crooning to her and rubbing her belly. This could take all day. I pet Bailey, Tucker, Tanner, Kazoo, Jake, Blitz, Frenchie, and Carson. Goldie is now hooking up with a nice man and woman at a picnic table. Everyone is petting everyone else’s dogs. It takes a village. The Park-9 experience is an amplified version of a dog walk: an easy way into conversation that can start and end with “what’s his name?” and “how old is she?” or extend into non-dog-related territory. Singles’ nights will likely be part of future event programming: “Bring your dog, meet a human. Ditch the Bumble, come to Park-9,” says Gusse, who has a background in patient advocacy in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries and believes in the therapeutic benefits of canine companionship. These benefits are on clear display in the off-leash area, where no one seems to be able to stop smiling. About half the people don’t even have dogs with them. “We have as many dog lovers coming as dog parents,” Gusse says. “That makes us happy to see — just being in this happy environment where they get to be around dogs.”

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This afternoon, the pups are well behaved and their humans stay close by. But just in case, there are also staff “park rangers” wearing blue vests with neon-edged safety stripes. They keep an eye on dog interactions, trained to spot early signs of trouble and break it up before it starts. When a black and tan fellow with a jaunty tail tries to get fresh with Goldie, a park ranger intercepts his amorous advances, stern as a middle-school dance chaperone. When an auburn pup with a plaid neck scarf relieves himself in the middle of the floor, no one bats an eye, and the mess is soon cleaned up.

After we explore the outdoor area, where humans chill in Adirondack chairs and dogs fail to splash in a couple of kiddie pools, it is time for refreshment. Goldie back on her leash, we belly up to the bar.

Dogs and their people in Park-9 Dog Bar's outdoor area.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

So, what are we having? “We are trying to be really thoughtful around the beverage program,” says Tess Kohanski. The list is stocked with local beers and women- or BIPOC-made, sustainably produced, organic wines. Park-9 features spirits from companies with missions that align with its own — for instance, Montelobos Mezcal Artesanal, which partners with the nonprofit Wolf Conservation Center, and Fuzzbutt Premium Vodka, which donates 50 percent of profits to dog charities. Vodka from Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which supports animals through its Vodka for Dog People program, is featured in a signature cocktail with lemon, blueberry, mint, and soda. It’s called the Bob Barker, and Park-9 and Tito’s each donate $1 to a featured dog cause (currently Sweet Paws Rescue) every time a drink is sold.

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There are suggested dog treat pairings for some of the cocktails; for instance, the Double Dog Dare, made with spicy tequila, can be paired with a taco cookie for your dog. Treats are from companies such as Preppy Puppy Bakery in West Wareham and Polkadog, which makes single-ingredient goodies popular with dogs who have allergies. The menu also features dog flights, including one of crunchy cod skin, a bone-shaped salmon treat, and a Clam Chowda stick, all from Polkadog. “How could we not have a seafood flight? We’re in New England,” Kohanski says.

I order a Bob Barker, for the donation but also the name. (The price is right: $13.) It’s refreshing and a fetching shade of mauve. Maybe I’ll have another, you know, for the cause. Goldie has a flight ($9) that features a selection from Good Boy Dog Beer with a treat shaped like a beer mug. But how to choose between, say, the Crotch Sniffin’ Ale and the Mailman Malt Licker? “Any favorites?,” I ask the bartender, who is human and therefore unlikely to have sampled a nonalcoholic beer that plainly reads “Intended for dogs only” on the can. “Well, I put it like this,” this consummate professional replies. “Does your dog like peanut butter, pork, or chicken?” Allll of the above. The bartender slides me a pink can of chicken-based Tail Chasin’ Blonde and a yellow dog bowl to pour it in.

A Bob Barker cocktail at the Park-9 Dog Bar in Everett. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

We head to the lounge, where I finally get some vegetable momos from Everett Nepali restaurant Zuzu Mo:Mo and settle in. Park-9 doesn’t have a kitchen on premises, so it brings in local restaurants and food trucks. Customers can also get pizza delivered to the door. Goldie ignores the luxurious dog couches, out of character for someone who rigorously sniffs every piece of discarded furniture we pass on trash night. She also ignores her beer. The beer mug cookie, however, is a big hit.

We have time for one more romp in the off-leash area, then it’s goodbye to new friends, at least until next time. I skipped the second Bob Barker, so I’m good to drive. Goldie throws up in the backseat, then passes out, so I guess she’s officially a teenager now.

We had a great afternoon, which it turns out is what happens when you bring a dog to a dog-forward bar. Dog-friendly spaces are more of a gamble, bringing together pro-dog and anti-dog factions. Park-9 erases that conflict. The customers are as diverse as their dogs, Gusse says, of all colors and ages and sizes. But they all agree on one thing: Their pets are awesome.

“In these divided times,” she says, “it’s so nice to have a great uniter in dogs.”

48 Waters Ave. #1, Everett, 617-294-8048, www.park9dogbar.com. Dog day pass $10 Mon-Thu, $15 Fri-Sun; monthlong and annual memberships also available. Humans enter for free.

Dogs playing in the outdoor area at Park-9.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Devra First can be reached at devra.first@globe.com. Follow her @devrafirst.