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Boston is finally getting a cat ‘cafe’

The first-ever feline-friendly ‘cafe’ could open in Boston this spring. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images/AFP

At first, Diane Kelly wanted to go into the dog-grooming business.

The Hull resident was so adamant about the career move that she traveled all the way to North Carolina last year to learn more about the trade, with plans to take over a franchise.

But she changed her mind and went in a radically different direction. Now, the 49-year-old is gearing up to introduce the first ever feline-friendly café to Boston this spring.

After months of navigating the proper legal channels, the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals this week unanimously approved Kelly’s request to open “PURR Cat Café ” in Brighton, on Chestnut Hill Avenue.


There’s still work to be done — paperwork needs to be filed by attorneys, there’s a grace period for neighbors to appeal the decision, and an architect needs to submit plans to the city — but the path to welcoming patrons to a place where they can both mingle with and adopt the animals is mostly clear.

“I’m dying to be open,” Kelly said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “This is very, very positive news.”

William “Buddy” Christopher, commissioner of the Inspectional Services Department, which oversees the zoning board, said the city is supportive of the new venture.

“We want entrepreneurs to bring us their concepts and ideas so that we can help them, and sort out how they can go through the process to get their permit,” he said.

The café, once it’s open, will offer WiFi access to customers and areas for them to lounge and relax.

Despite the name, food will not be prepared at the establishment. But Kelly said customers can order food and drinks from nearby restaurants, and then have those items delivered by her staff.

As for the cats, Kelly is primarily partnering with Boston Forgotten Felines, which traps, spays and neuters, and then re-homes stray cats, to supply the animals that will wander around the shop.


She said up to 40 people would be allowed inside the café at any time. Customers would pay an hourly fee of around $15, but would first need to fill out a waiver and secure a time slot to visit by registering online.

People can also just drop in.

“As long as there is room at the café, people can just show up and pay,” Kelly said.

The Brighton business, which could be open by April, would offer some perks. Kelly has plans for a “Nine Lives” card that would grant a person a free visit to the café after their ninth time there. Student discounts and special events like “yoga with the cats” are also on Kelly’s agenda.

“We are going to do a lot of cat education, like cat wellness classes and things of that nature,” she said.

Already, people are being offered an opportunity to experience the café. Kelly is hosting a fundraiser for Boston Forgotten Felines on the charity website Flutter. A $10 donation enters participants into an online raffle. The lucky winner will receive a private party at PURR with 30 friends — and more than two dozen cats.

Kelly isn’t the first entrepreneur to try to bring a cat café to Boston. In 2014, a graduate student tried to crowdfund a cat café called Le Chat Noir. A year before that, a café called Miaou Boston was said to be in the works. But both projects failed to come to fruition.


While there are similar cafés around the world — Taiwan, Japan, London, and California all have cat-based businesses and hangouts — Kelly would be the first to succeed in the niche industry locally.

The bragging rights will be nice. But more importantly, Kelly hopes that by bringing the café to the city, stray and abandoned cats will be able to find a new home.

“The goal,” Kelly said, “is to get people to adopt them.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Cristela Guerra contributed to this report.