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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Alumnus combine dog park and beer garden in Fairhaven

Crosby was patiently still. As someone’s hand would move, his eyebrows would twitch, but he never took his eyes off the tennis ball.

Crosby, a border collie black lab mix, spends most of his time as the resident dog of Paws For A Beer, a bar that doubles as a dog park. The bar is located at 501 Harris Ave.

Paws For A Beer offers roughly 35 different canned beers, wine, canned cider and kombucha to those at least 21 years old. Once dogs are registered with a daily, monthly or yearly membership fee, they are allowed both inside and outside the premises. A membership also includes access to monthly trainings.

Western alumni Amy and Rylan Schoen are the bar’s founders. Rylan Schoen, a psychology and marketing graduate, said he finds marketing intriguing, while his psychology background helps him better understand dogs.


Crosby, the bar’s resident dog, waits for a tennis ball // photo by Jade Thurston

Their dog Crosby was the inspiration behind the tavern.


Working as a professional freelance photographer for the last seven years, Rylan Schoen said he didn’t have any preconceived ideas about starting a business when he opened his own store. If anything, a gallery space seemed to be the next step, Rylan Schoen said.

Working at home and having an energetic puppy was a hectic combination. Rylan Schoen said he was ready to put together some kind of office space to help separate the two.

“I was pretty much spending my entire day taking Crosby around to the different dog parks to get him tired, while also trying to find clients [for photography,]”
Paws for a Beer creator Rylan Schoen

Crosby butted in with a small whine.

“That whine you just heard there is something that would happen constantly,” Rylan Schoen said. “He wasn’t getting tired.”

When Crosby was 5 months old, Rylan Schoen said he had an idea that started to surface. This idea was the solution to an energetic dog and a new business opportunity.

The Schoen’s used Kickstarter to introduce the idea of a dog bar to the community and reached their goal of $10,000. By October 2016, the bar was up and running.

In the first four months, Rylan Schoen said over 650 individual dogs came through the tavern.

Membership costs range from $5 for a day to $100 for an entire year. The fees support monthly dog training, dog treats and toys at the bar, outdoor play-area upkeep and indoor bathroom funding, according to the bar’s website.

Bellingham resident, Stephanie Korn, lives just a few blocks from Paws For A Beer. She said she is thrilled to have an indoor dog park just down the road.

“There’s other places that are dog-friendly, but not dog-oriented,” Korn said.

“It really takes a unique community like Bellingham that invests in recreation, outdoors, dog owners and dog lovers to make a place like [Paws For A Beer] work.”

Mike Aparicio, a food delivery driver for Western, learned about Paws For A Beer through Instagram. As a hobby, Aparicio said he has an Instagram account dedicated to drinking and critiquing local beer. He had never heard of a dog-friendly bar before, Aparicio said.

Aparicio went to Paws For A Beer with his and his roommate’s dog, Angus, after getting a golden ticket from a friend. Golden tickets are a way to gift memberships.

Aparicio said the only downside of the bar is that they just have cans, however, he still prefers to take Angus to Paws For A Beer over other taverns.  

“He can be off the leash and just flourish,” Aparicio said.  

Rylan Schoen said that only stocking cans allows the dogs to legally be anywhere in the alcohol boundary.

The bar tries to emulate the atmosphere of a living room setting, Rylan Schoen said.

“It’s really cool because when anyone’s in here, everyone always has something to talk about,” Rylan Schoen said. “[Dogs] are the perfect icebreaker to bring people together.”


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