Mutts Canine Cantina has two locations, one in Dallas and the other in Fort Worth. Franchisee April Mendoza plans to open locations in El Paso and Tucson by the end of 2021.

A Texas-based restaurant concept pairing craft-casual food and drink with a large, open, off-leash play area for dogs is looking to set up shop in Tucson by late 2021.

Las Cruces, New Mexico, resident April Mendoza recently signed a franchise agreement with MUTTS Canine Cantina with plans to open locations in El Paso and Tucson by the end of next year.

The restaurant’s claim to fame is its off-leash dog parks, where owners can let their pets run free while having a drink or getting a bite to eat on-site.

The parks are maintained by staff members known as “bark rangers,” who clean up after the pets and de-escalate any situation where the dogs might “get too rowdy,” MUTTS managing partner Michelle Boggs said.

“Dogs can run free without a leash,” Boggs said. “Their owners can walk up to the bar and grab a margarita.”

Patrons can pay for day passes ($8.95 for one dog, according to the MUTTS website), monthly passes ($16.95) or annual passes ($169.50) and are given access to the parks through barcodes sent to their phones.

Mendoza first heard of MUTTS while living in Dallas. She would take her two Shih Tzus to “yappy hour,” the restaurant’s weekday version of happy hour.

“It is difficult as a dog owner to bring two dogs to a restaurant’s patio and try to eat,” Mendoza said. “MUTTS gives you this big open area where you feel more comfortable doing that. That idea always resonated with me.”

MUTTS currently has two locations, one in Dallas that opened in 2014 and a second in Fort Worth that opened in 2018. Boggs and concept founders Kyle Noonan and Joshua Sepkowitz started franchising last year, Boggs said.

The restaurant offers a menu that includes sandwiches, burgers, chicken dishes and snack plates, with craft beer and mixed drink options to wash them down.

Pets can munch on mini-beef franks, known as “doggie dogs,” and pupsicles, dog-friendly popsicles made from beef broth and peanut butter on edible sticks.

Boggs said membership at both of its current spots has risen since the pandemic started. Its Dallas location went from 985 paying members per month at the beginning of the year to about 2,000 today. Its Fort Worth location jumped from 825 to 1,160.

Mendoza said that they are currently looking for the perfect location in Tucson.

She said she chose Tucson because of its dog-friendly reputation and its long stretches of sunny weather.

“It seemed like a no-brainer to me,” Mendoza said.


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Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@tucson.com.