Could Boston’s cat cafe dreams finally come true?
Cat people rejoice! The hub of the universe might finally see its first cat cafe by early next year.
PURR Cat Cafe would be a place to mingle with and potentially adopt shelter cats. Patrons would pay an hourly fee and be able to enjoy snacks and drinks as well.
Diane Kelly, of Hull, said she’s already spent around $25,000 hiring a designer to create her website and merchandising, an architect, a broker, and a lawyer to navigate the permitting and zoning process. She just needs to sign a lease on a space, which she’s in negotiations to do soon, Kelly says. Comments under a June 16 post on PURR’s Facebook profile suggest the location might be in Brighton.
“Property owners didn’t think [a cat cafe] could generate enough profit to pay the rent,” Kelly said. “But I wouldn’t invest this much if I didn’t think it would be successful.”
There have been two failed local attempts to begin cat cafes in Boston. In 2014, a graduate student tried to crowd-fund a cafe called Le Chat Noir, but fell short of her $65,000 goal. And in 2013, there was talk of another cafe called Miaou Boston, but the business’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have since gone inactive.
Once Kelly secures a location, the business would be subject to all city approvals as far as permits, zoning regulations, and community outreach requirements.
No one has ever gotten as far as filing to have a cat cafe within city limits, said William “Buddy” Christopher, commissioner of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department.
“Obviously, she has to apply for her permit,” Christopher said. “Depending on where in the city she is, she’ll have to come in to us and explain what her business operation is, and then we’ll go through the process.”
Christopher’s primary concern was whether food would be prepared on-site. Kelly’s plan is to partner with a bakery to prepare and deliver coffee and baked goods to avoid any contamination.
As for cost, she’s looking at charging between $12 and $15 an hour aside from adoption fees. Kelly said the average price for a cat cafe ranges between $10 and $25 an hour. She’s hoping to be open seven days a week, and is already in talks with two shelters to provide kitties. She plans to host events like yoga, lectures, movie nights, and speed dating to motivate the community to adopt the space and the cats as their own.
The 49-year-old left the medical field after working 27 years in cardiac ultrasound to pursue her dream of starting her own business. Her original idea was to take over a dog grooming franchise in North Carolina, but she heard about cat cafes on the ABC show “Shark Tank.”
“When I first started looking I thought: Am I crazy? Can I really make a living off a cat cafe?” Kelly said. “And then I did research and I realized I could.”
After visiting two cat cafes, Crumbs & Whiskers in Washington, D.C., and Little Lions in New York’s SoHo, she fell in love with the concept — and a cat named Gus, whom she took home.
The feline-based businesses began in Taiwan, jumped to Japan, and have recently popped up in a handful of cities around the world. In 2014, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium opened in London with 7,000 reservations already lined up. In 2014, Cat Town in Oakland, Calif., began the first cat cafe in America. Between its foster program and the cafe, it has rescued more than 1,100 cats, according to its website.
Kelly hopes this third cat cafe attempt in Boston is the charm. PURR Cat Cafe already has more than 1,200 followers on Facebook.
She hopes these and other fans will be drawn to spend time at a cafe full of adoptable pets in a way they never would at a shelter.
“It’s a lot more pleasant,” Kelly said. “The cats are not in cages. They can roam around. It’s a much nicer atmosphere.”