The latest entertainment option headed to the Scott’s Addition area has something to offer for both humans and their four-legged friends.
Ruff Canine Club, which looks to be the first dog park-bar in the Richmond region, is preparing to open at 1924 Ellen Road with nearly an acre of grass for customers’ dogs to play and a bar serving beer, wine and hard seltzer.
Behind the concept is Natalie Moore, a Tennessee native who moved to Richmond last year after finishing a graduate degree in public policy from UVA.
Moore said she got a job locally as a fundraiser for Dominion Energy’s political action committee in the midst of pandemic lockdowns. During that time, she and her boyfriend made friends in town with the help of their dog Fitzgerald.
“We had our dog in our little apartment (in Carytown) and it had a small turf area. Everyday we’d take drinks out there because we had nothing else to do,” Moore said.
“Our dogs would play and we’d stand along the fence and have beers after a day of Zoom. That’s how we made so many of our friends. I just wanted it on a bigger scale.”
She eventually decided to turn the idea into a business after researching other dog park bars throughout the country. A few trips to the likes of Fetch Park in Atlanta led Moore to start looking for a space in the Richmond area.
“It is a new concept, but they are popping up everywhere,” she said. “I traveled around and decided to make the jump, after two years of grad school.”
Ruff signed a lease in February for a roughly 1-acre plot adjacent to biotech firm Grenova’s new headquarters, not far from The Diamond.
The dog park area is entirely outdoors and will feature dog agility equipment, while the human entertainment comes in the form of a bar that’ll include eight taps pouring local beer plus wine and hard seltzer.
Moore said it also has a kitchen that’ll serve sandwiches, soups and salads as well as shareable dishes like salsa and pimento cheese.
Ruff will operate with a membership model, with rates for one and two dogs going for $275 and $430 annually, or $30 and $45 monthly. Day passes are also available for $10, which Moore said are a good way for prospective members to see if their dogs will enjoy the park.
Moore said Ruff won’t have any breed restrictions but will require dogs to be up to date on vaccinations. Dogs and their owners would only be asked to leave due to behavioral issues.
“If people have a dog that’s risky, we’ll ask them to come, get a day pass and try once before they commit to a membership. A lot of it is personality-driven,” Moore said. “We have a no-tolerance policy. If your dog acts up, we’ll have to ask you to leave.”
The park’s staff has come largely from other dog daycares, Moore said. If two dogs begin fighting, the employees are trained to intervene without making contact with the animals.
“They’ll be monitoring dogs and they’ll be trained to assess behavior as well,” Moore said. “They’re trained in how to intervene and defuse those situations before they happen.”
Wi-Fi is available at the dog park as well, something Moore said also stemmed from her experience working from home last year.
“If people want to bring their dog and work here, they can,” she said. “I know a lot of people are going to be staying working from home and there’s nothing worse than having your dog bug you all day while you’re on a Zoom meeting.”
Ruff is leasing the space from Spy Rock Real Estate Group, which spent $2.7 million on Ruff and Grenova’s land last year. Moore said Spy Rock is helping with the building, contributing $500,000, and said she put in $200,000 of her own funds to get the business open.
Commonwealth Commercial’s Ben Bruni represented Ruff in the lease. Architecture AF is the project’s architect and RGI General Contractors is handling the build out.
Ruff will have a phased opening, with the first half of the park and the bar opening in October. The second half of the land, which will also have a stage for live music, is scheduled to open in early 2022.