Spring has sprung and every indication suggests that a long hot summer is imminent. As the temperatures rise, patios shift from an occasional luxury to an essential component of dining and imbibing. While there are a great deal of places in the city to wine and dine amidst the fantastic weather, seldom are we given the chance to eat, drink and be merry surrounded by an unruly abundance of dogs. Enter the dog park and bar hybrid, The Watering Bowl.

Justin Henry opened the community space four years ago after leaving corporate America to pursue the dream of bringing the kind of leisure he had envisioned in his post-work excursions around Denver. Having attended many happy hours — all too often cut short by the domestic responsibilities of dog ownership —Henry embarked on the noble task of developing a space where the interests of man and beast could coincide under one well-decorated roof. The large, two-story interior is reminiscent of a ski-lodge — the bar lines the far wall of the upstairs, overlooking multipurpose space below. Home to wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wedding receptions, corporate events and a weekly painting night the 14,000 square foot space is available to rent for any occasion.

A rotating tap list and a wide selection of liquor give the atmosphere the feel of an upscale dive, and it’s further illustrated their food menu, filled with all the usual suspects— pizza, wings, burgers and an appetizer list of all things fried delivered with unexpected gusto. In particular, the chicken honey sriracha pizza, a delightful combination of grilled chicken, green onions, tomato and a honey sriracha base brings a welcome kick to the otherwise fairly traditional offering.

Separated from the impressive interior by a gated buffer area, the turf-lined patio is equipped with colorful chairs, oversized picnic tables, pooper-scoopers and a small stage where canine performers are expected to deliver top-notch standup comedy. A sign threatening a $20 fine for first-time offenders, and $50 for all subsequent infractions deters would-be slackers from allowing their dogs to defecate liberally and without remorse. Dog toys are made available and a rack for leashes lines the wall of the entrance. The easy mixing exhibited by the dogs is soon emulated by owners — often times forced into conversation by the gregarious nature of their four-legged friends.

Henry achieves the difficult task of combining two distinct, fairly independent spaces into one cohesive whole. While the event-oriented interior and the dog-park-plus-beer-courtyard could each stand on their own, they are held together by a principled approach to merry-making. The unpretentious atmosphere and Animal House aesthetic put the desire to host a crowd that is familial and unrestrained centerstage. It is this kind of leisurely approach that truly places The Watering Bowl at the forefront of summer locales — a place where hanging loose is expected and organized chaos is celebrated.

The Watering Bowl is located at 5411 Leetsdale Dr., Denver. They are open Monday through Thursday 4 p.m. until midnight, Friday 4 p.m. – 2 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

All Photography by Danielle Webster.

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