Taps and Tails dog bar is an all-weather asset for Cleveland’s dogs and owners

Taps and Tails dog bar is an all-weather asset for Cleveland’s dogs and owners

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Any dog owner in Cleveland knows that nothing is worse than having to walk your dog when the weather is bad.

“We both would joke around like it feels like we’re dressing to go to war,” Eric Hollender, owner of Taps and Tails dog bar, said about walking his dog in the winter.

Eric and his wife Lisa Hollender got the idea to open a dog park when they became owners of Myles, an energetic Australian shepherd. The pair found that Myles would become bored easily at dog-friendly patios that catered toward humans.

“And we took him to dog parks, and we were bored,” Lisa said. Eric added it often “felt like a chore to own a dog” when the weather gets extreme.

Eric and Lisa Hollender, the owners of Taps and Tails dog park and bar in Tremont. Alex Darus, cleveland.com

The pair wanted to find a middle ground and, coincidentally, always wanted to open a business. Lisa has a background in animal behavioral research and Eric previously worked in business and finance.

“Just the best of both worlds,” Lisa said. “We complement each other really well.” Taps and Tails, located at 1901 Train Avenue in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, is both of their first forays into entrepreneurship.

They acquired what they describe as a “junkyard” lot with an industrial garage. There’s a similar lot across the dog bar’s parking lot that Eric says looked like Taps and Tails before it was renovated. Lisa added her creative touches with dog-inspired murals all over the bar while Eric worked to build the functional aspects. Aside from contracting trade workers for aspects like plumbing and electricity, the couple built it themselves.

Taps and Tails first opened in 2021 after the duo spent more than a year revamping it into the all-weather dog bar. There is turf inside and outside, and the ladder is new as of summer 2023, for cleanliness.

The park features indoor heaters to keep the space warm in the winter, and outdoor pools and water misters to keep dogs and humans cool when it gets hot. There are also areas separate from dogs where people can eat. Taps and Tails sells a few snacks and allows people to bring in outside food.

Owners are required to register dogs online before arrival. However, once approved, dogs can enter the park on a day pass or membership plan. Owners only have to pay per dog and the humans get in for free.

Taps and Tails

The outdoor turf area of Taps and Tails dog park and bar. Alex Darus, cleveland.com

Opening a dog bar wasn’t an easy feat for Eric and Lisa, especially in the beginning. They would have to work 80-hour weeks at the park when they had limited staffing. Some weekdays would be empty, as the word hadn’t caught on yet. There were misconceptions about safety or the requirements for entry. Loyal customers helped the couple power through to keep going.

“When we first started, we were losing money,” Eric said. “The community is … what really kept us going when it was tough.”

While it’s been open for two years, it’s hard for the couple to not consider Taps and Tails to be totally complete.

“There’s so much room for growth and improvement,” Lisa said. However, she’s glad that it’s been a gradual process — despite a year setback from the COVID-19 pandemic. The slow improvements allow for the staff to monitor how people and dogs interact with space, and then add necessary upgrades to accommodate for what’s lacking.

“It was a lot more difficult than I guess we could have imagined,” Lisa said of starting a business centered on two highly regulated sectors — bars and dog-friendly spaces.

Taps and Tails also had to overcome misconceptions. Some people believed that it was unsafe for there to be a space where people were drinking while dogs were playing off-leash. However, the bar isn’t open late. Additionally, the “bark rangers” who monitor the pups keep an eye for aggressive dogs and other mishaps so owners can have a sense of relief.

The dog bar has battled those misconceptions by answering every question that comes its way. Aside from registering the dogs’ vaccines online, it’s a welcome environment. Even non-dog owners can happily frequent the bar, as long as they are 21 or older, to play with dogs and enjoy a drink.

“We’re not breed restrictions at all; we’re open to everybody as long as the dogs are fit for a dog park,” Lisa said.

Taps and Tails

A birthday party hosted at Taps and Tails dog park/bar in Tremont. Alex Darus, cleveland.com

Taps and Tails hosts an extensive number of events each month, from breed meetups to fundraising events for nonprofits. Customers can schedule to host events from business parties to dog birthday parties. They’ve had dog prom, themed fashion shows and holiday-centric events.

Over two years, Taps and Tails has cultivated a dedicated staff who know the name of every dog.

“They think of your dog as part of their family. They’re going to treat your dog like its their own,” Lisa said. Staff also come up with many ideas for events, marketing, and more to help the business grow. For example, a Taylor Swift Eras “Pawty” was the brainchild of some of the bark rangers.

A close second favorite aspect for Lisa and Eric is when customers approach them with positive experiences. Many dogs have come out of their shell in the environment and people can socialize easily with other dog owners.

Taps and Tails

Maple, a Taps and Tails regular, lounges by the pools in the outdoor area. Alex Darus, cleveland.com

Taps and Tails is not done growing. While they currently offer daycare, Lisa and Eric hope to add overnight boarding. Also, they aren’t looking to stop at just the Tremont location.

“A second location is definitely in the back of our minds,” Lisa said. “I feel like more of Ohio needs Taps and Tails.”

Taps and Tails offers limited bar snacks from pizza bagels to mac and cheese, but they host food pop-ups and food trucks for events and hope to add a more permanent food option.

The possibility for growth is aided by the self-sufficiency of the original location. Eric and Lisa recently stopped working on-site at the dog park daily, which was a long time coming. They have managers and team leads who help to take a tremendous amount of stress off of their shoulders so they can focus on the big picture.

“There’s so many little accomplishments like this event went really well, or we’re proud that we put in the turf,” Eric said. “That’s probably been the most impactful thing for us — to take a step back.”

If You Go

Location: Taps and Tails, 1901 Train Ave., Cleveland.

Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Daycare is offered all-day with separate hours.

Age restrictions: Taps and Tails is only open to those 21 and older.

Note: Register your dog at https://www.tapsandtailsdogbar.com/register

Contact: 216-417-7384; https://www.instagram.com/tapsandtails/

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