Former Mo Pitkin’s, Aces & Eights Space Goes to the Dogs

ruff club 4Dana Varinsky Alexia Simon, Danny Frost, and Leo.

The space that has been vacant ever since Aces & Eights bar was closed for operating without a license in 2010 is just a few weeks away from reopening as a dog-friendly social club and pet-care center. Yesterday evening, Ruff Club unveiled its window signage and this weekend, it will begin scheduling interviews with potential concierges and dog handlers.

Calling itself a “parlor room for East Village dog people,” the “contemporary pet care hub” will allow locals to use WiFi and sip locally roasted coffee up front while their dogs are cared for in the back – no matter the weather. “People who would sit outside at a café with their dog during the summer will come here,” said Alexia Simon, co-owner of the club with her husband Danny Frost.

The idea evolved out of the couple’s dissatisfaction with the day-care centers they tried for their miniature Australian Shepherd, Leo, a regular at the Tompkins Square Park dog run. “We found it was deeply impersonal. You didn’t know who the other animals were; you didn’t know who the owners were,” Mr. Frost said.

ruff club 5Dana Varinsky Newly unveiled signage.

They decided to sign a lease at 34 Avenue A after a significant drop in rent. Formally the home of Mo Pitkin’s, a bar and performance space that closed in 2007, it later became Aces & Eights. Two Boots owner Phil Hartman and indie-music insider Todd Patrick tried to open a new venue there last year, but couldn’t receive support for a liquor license, despite the endorsement of Richard Hell and others.

“Our concept guarantees that there can be no liquor sold here, so hopefully the community will be happy about that,” said Mr. Frost. He added that the Chinese Hawaiian Kempo Academy, which filled the upstairs space in December, would be an appropriate neighbor, since both spots will make their fair share of noise.

The couple will keep the floors, ceiling, light fixtures and bar that attracted them to the space in the first place. New additions will include wallpaper depicting scenes from the neighborhood, vintage wooden church pews, and an iPad check-in system.

ruff club 2Dana Varinsky Back room, under construction.

A live stream will allow owners to monitor their dogs remotely, but there won’t be too many gimmicks. Mr. Frost and Ms. Simon believe many day care centers either treat the dogs like small children going to preschool, or provide them with master suites, massages and T.V.s. “We don’t feel these things belong in the East Village and we’re not going to engage in that. It’s a low-key, laid back environment,” said Mr. Frost.

The yearly fee will be $149, with day care and overnight boarding fees starting at $29 per day and $49 per night, respectively (scholarships will be available). The club is currently beefing up its mailing list and will begin accepting members soon.