For at least the past few months, if not the entire year, people have been hounding the owners of Boo’s Ice House and Dog Bar in Sarasota about when the place, a new bar and restaurant concept for dog owners and dog lovers, with outdoor and indoor areas for dogs to play, is going to open.
“People are so excited,” says Mindy Kauffman, Boo's owner, along with her husband, Bobby Boivin. “The No. 1 question is ‘When are you opening?’”
That query comes from people on Facebook and in the community craving the dog-centric social club Kauffman and Boivin are planning.
That answer was, at one point, earlier this year. Then it was over the summer. Then it was Oct. 1. But those dates came and went. As of mid-December, they were as close as ever to opening, but Kauffman, coming off the series of stops and starts, says "we’re resisting putting a date to" an official opening.
In a Dec. 12 interview, Kauffman did confirm they hope to receive their certificate of occupancy "within a few weeks" for Boo's, which is on 10th Street in the Rosemary District, just north of downtown Sarasota. With the CO in place, the opening — finally — will get a bit more real. “Then we can put a real timeline together,” Kauffman says. “It just seems silly to keep putting dates out there and not meeting them.”
When Boo's does open, after going through some iterations, the owners are confident it will resonate with customers. The name partly pays homage to the building’s original use, when it was constructed in 1947-48 as an ice house to store ice and facilitate deliveries. It’s also partially named after the founders’ rescue dog, Boo.
On delays for the opening, Kauffman says "it's been one thing after another." The list includes supply chain issues and labor shortages. And then, of course, Hurricane Ian. “It’s just been a bunch of different hurdles, but we are still moving forward.”
“Part of our problem is the fact that the concept is so new to everyone,” Kauffman adds. “It’s new to the city and the vendors. Nobody knows what they’re doing from that perspective. But it’s also new to us."
Once they’ve obtained the final inspections and CO then they’ll move onto working with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation division to secure the correct licensing for the restaurant side. Then they can they obtain a liquor license.
When the couple started their journey, closing on the property for $1.35 million in early 2020, they began with a plan and focus for Boo's. But there’s been some change since then to those plans.
“A lot of evolution happened,” Boivin says. And they expect those changes to continue even past opening.
“We know that the way we open is probably not going to be the way we’re going to be in six months and a year from now,” Kauffman says.
The intention of building Boo’s was to have a dog park for people to sit, have a drink and some food while watching their dog play. But that’s not necessarily what the community is expecting.
“People seem to think that one of the benefits is that they’re going to drop off their dog to play while they go into the restaurant and have dinner,” Kauffman says. “That was never something we thought of. But so many people have brought that to our attention that we’re going to try and accommodate that. So it’s impossible to really know what it’s going to be until it opens. I guess at some point we'll have to stop making changes.”
With construction wrapping up, meanwhile, Kauffman says they’re “this close” to being done with the inside area and that the turf outside is done.
“Now we’re getting down to the pretty stuff,” she says. That's a big relief, as they begin placing all the items they’ve been collecting and storing at their home.
And, despite the various opening delays, the founders remain excited about the potential. Hoping it will be the “doggiest space to hang out,” Kauffman says, the goal is for Boo’s to be guests' “home away from home. I’m hoping it brings people together.”
Another win? The couple remains together, too, even amid the stress of the project.
“We’re still married,” Boivin says. “Now we know we can go through very stressful situations and still love each other.”