Lincoln City Council, dog bar owners take safety steps

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The Lincoln City Council voted unanimously on Monday to advance an item on dog bars.

Two new dog bars are coming to Lincoln: Urban Hound Dog Park and Bar and Off Leash Dog Bar.

Brandon Akert, the owner of Off Leash, said he hopes his business will bring a unique experience to his customers.

But he knows that along with the fun, he has to make safety a top priority.

“If dogs are being aggressive, it kind of sucks the energy out of the room,” Akert said. “We’ve just got to make sure we’re maintaining a happy, safe, fun environment for people and animals at the same time.”

The item advanced by the council would add a definition to the Lincoln Municipal Code related to dog bars.

It needs one more reading, and if it passes, it will define an aggressive dog as “any animal showing threatening signs such as barking, howling, growling, showing teeth, or requiring restraint by the animal’s handler.”

Off Leash Dog Bar is still under construction, but it will be located in the Telegraph District.

Akert, who also owns Gate 25 Restaurant and Bar, said he has a three-part plan to maximize the security of both dogs and owners.

First, dog owners will have to pay for day passes or become members.

“People that don’t train their dogs properly or socialize their dogs, they’re probably not going to pay to bring their dog into the establishment,” he said.

Akert said each owner will also have to bring in paperwork to prove ownership and vaccination status.

Finally, the bar will have trained staff members who can de-escalate a situation.

Akert hopes these lines of defense will help prevent aggression, but he knows it won’t be perfect.

“It’s just a matter of the environment and what that dog is in that environment and what their triggers are,” he said.

He said the workers will talk with owners when they feel that their dog might be a danger to others.

Akert said he won’t know if the system works until the bar opens.

“You can put all of the steps in front of this to try and preemptively make these things not happen, but we know it’s going to be a trial by fire,” he said. “There’s just no other way around it. But we’re going to learn as we go, and we’re going to make good actions as it goes.”

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