EAST VILLAGE — Don't expect to gain admission to this social club without a little help from man's best friend.
Ruff Club, set to open in October in a former performance and bar space at 34 Avenue A, is a new-look members-only doggie daycare and boarding kennel that will cater to the social needs of pets, as well as their owners.
With free WiFi, a comfortable seating area and a self-service iPad check-in system, owners will have just as much reason for tail wagging as their pooches.
"The update of the model is really for the humans, not the dogs," said Alexia Simon Frost, 28, who is opening the club along with husband, Danny Frost.
The 1,600-square-foot space plus basement-boarding kennel had been in limbo before the Frosts secured the lease in June. After the Aces & Eights Saloon closed in 2010, Community Board 3 refused to support a proposal by Two Boots Pizza owner Phil Hartman and concert promoter Todd Patrick to turn it into a music venue and restaurant.
"We are really excited to be a part of what will happen next on Avenue A," said Danny Frost, 29, a campaign finance attorney. The couple has lived in the East Village since 2006 with their Toy Australian Shepard, Leo.
While plans are still coming together for how Ruff Club will operate, construction is already under way on the interior, which will leave the bar from the former establishment intact.
"We really want people to come in and meet other people," said Simon Frost, 28, who has a background in celebrity chef management. "The only other place is the dog park, which isn’t that friendly when it is 10 degrees out."
Like a traditional dog daycare, a huge glass enclosed back area will provide separate playpens for between 20 and 40 big and small pooches that will come equipped with toys and equipment, such as salvaged park benches.
The front area, complete with tables and chairs, will give customers free wireless Internet access while allowing them to mingle with other dog owners.
"We are expecting a creative group of members where they not only get to know each other, but do things together too," said Danny Frost, who hopes the space will inspire ideas and projects in the social club.
Because of health codes, Ruff Club will not be able to serve food or drinks, but the Frosts are investigating the possibility of owners bringing their own.
With the neighborhood’s generally young and entrepreneurial demographic, Ruff Club also intends to appeal to the area's tech-savvy leanings.
"Our goal is to have all commerce go through the [web]site," said Danny Frost, including the annual membership fee and bookings for a daycare or kennel space. There will also be an additional fee for the daycare, which is still being worked out.
The planned iPad check-in would mirror that of an airport, according to the owners, where an employee would always be present, but those wishing to expedite the process could head straight to the tablet computers.
Owners will also be able to log into webcams to view their pets remotely.
As for those who argue the membership-only business will create an elitist group of dog owners, the owners assured the process will be democratic — with plans to offer scholarships to low-income families or rescue dogs with “compelling stories.”
"We are screening dogs, not people," said Danny Frost, alluding to the temperament tests the animals will be put through before owners are granted membership.
The couple has also done some research to piece together a deeper history for 34 Avenue A, as noted in an article by Untapped Cities.
"We want to maintain the integrity of the space," Simon Frost said.
Along with the daycare and kennel, Ruff Club will also provide nighttime classes, which could be opened up to the general public, according to its owners. Dogsitting on Friday and Saturday nights could be another option.
They also intend to offer the location as a meeting spot for local groups and organizations.
"We really want to become part of the community," Simon Frost said.