Meet Leib Dodell, the Jewish St. Louis entrepreneur who loves your dog


Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

If you ask me, dogs get a bad rap when it comes to the Bible. Deuteronomy 23.19 equated dogs with prostitution saying “You shall not bring the fee of a whore or the pay of a dog*dog I.e., a male prostitute. into the house of your God יהוה in fulfillment of any vow, for both are abhorrent to your God יהוה. The Book of Kings includes several references to dogs feeding on corpses. And in the Psalms, dogs are described as beasts that maul at human beings. Now, that is the definition of a bad rap.

Of course, there a plenty of other, more positive references to dogs including the story of “The Maharal” – a 16th-century rabbi from Prague who taught that in Hebrew a dog is called Kelev because they are K’lev – like the heart of the owner. It sounds a whole lot like the expression we say in English, “man’s best friend.”

Despite the debate, many believe pups make us happier people and enrich our lives every day. Just ask anyone on the Mazel Pups Facebook Group. And while we love them, and them us, sometimes our dogs need a break. You know “get off the leash” and let loose. That is one reason Jewish entrepreneur Leib Dodell, brought Bar K to St. Louis.

Leib Dodell

Leib Dodell was born in Washington D.C, in 1963. He grew up in a kosher, Conservative Jewish household and eventually became the president of Beth Tikva Synagogue’s youth chapter at his local high school in Rockville, Maryland.

Dodell grew up and became an attorney and freelance writer. He would eventually settle in Kansas City, Missouri where he would become the CEO of several businesses. Always a pet lover, Dodell and his three dogs Benji, Frankie, and Bear would frequent dog parks across Kansas City, and that was where the idea for Bar K came to be.

“I felt the dog park experience to be very limited. No gatekeepers, no comfortable places to sit, and no one to keep it clean and safe,” said Dodell. “And certainly, no places to get a drink or a bite to eat.”

Bar K comes to life

In 2016, realizing there was a missing element in the lifestyle of a dog owner, Dodell and a business partner decided to change that. Starting as a pop-up idea that combined cocktails and canines, Bar K quickly became a cult sensation in Kansas City — with more than 700 dogs in attendance at its first event.

“We pretty much reinvented the dog park experience by creating a joyful destination for people and dogs,” said Dodell.

In 2018, the first permanent Bar K location opened in Kansas City, offering people and pets a unique space, combined with a bar and restaurant, making for a brand new type of experience.

“With the rapid growth and success in Kansas City, we decided to take Bar K to other Midwest cities. We opened in St. Louis in September and then Oklahoma City will open later this year,” said Dodell.

What you’ll find

Benji, Frankie, and Bear all call St. Louis home now, and Dodell’s vision is now open at 4565 McRee Ave. near the Grove neighborhood.

“Bar K is a much larger and more ambitious concept than most people think when they hear ‘dog park bar’,” said Dodell. “We have 10,000 square feet of indoor, off-leash space, as well as two acres outdoors.”

The outdoor section is a mix of wide open spaces, a giant hill in the middle for dogs to run on, plus a climbing wall of sorts. The park is staffed with professional “dogtenders” who keep an eye on all the dogs, keeping everyone safe, while keeping the park clean. They have three bars featuring local breweries and a large restaurant with a scratch kitchen that serves “healthy casual” cuisine. Dog owners can come for the day, or become a member.

“Bar K is awesome because it’s a great way to socialize myself and my rescue dog,” said Amie Marie. “It’s helping her get used to other people and other dogs and the events they do for rescues and adoptions is fantastic and sends a great message.”

Another member, Karen Barker, lives in Ladue but makes the trek to Bar K several times a week. Her pup, Piper is a 3-year-old minature schnauzer who loves to roam free off the leash.

“We just love to sit and watch Piper play and have fun off the leash,” said Barker. “It’s so nice to sit or walk around with a drink and watch all the dogs have fun. And the food is fabulous too.”

Bar K Info

4565 McRee Ave, St. Louis, 63110
(314) 530-9990