The new owners of Whitley Bay’s first and only dog café are promising a pedigree service for both their animal and human customers.
The Barking Bistro, which opened in 2017, has been bought by dog lovers Graham Siddle and Lynda Maitland who plan to establish the café as a centre for the coast’s canine community.
Already their free puppy socialisation sessions – which help young dogs get used to other puppies and a different surroundings – are over-subscribed and, after the success of a Christmas dinner for ten lucky pets, the couple are hoping that owners will choose to celebrate their dogs’ birthdays with parties at the Barking Bistro washed down with non-alcoholic Pawsecco, Champaws or Bottom Sniffer beer.
Even when it is not a special occasion, pets are treated to homemade liver cakes, cheesy snacks, peanut butter and bacon biscuit bones, and Graham and Lynda are extending the café’s range of harnesses, leads and toys to provide a one-stop shop for owners.
Human customers – with or without dogs – are more than welcome. They are provided with top quality coffee, supplied by Baristocracy from North Shields, freshly made cakes from local bakeries, toasties, jacket potatoes and homemade soup. There is also a takeaway service for dogs and people.
The Barking Bistro is a dream come true for Graham. He took early retirement after working for the NHS for 30 years and spent four years looking for the right project. “I wanted to set up my own business and had always fancied a coffee shop. I’ve had dogs all my life so when this came up for sale it was too good to miss,” he said.
His partner Lynda has a job with the Changing Lives charity and will continue to lead one of its projects supporting homeless people. As well as her home cooking for the bistro, she works there at weekends.
“The idea for the café was brilliant and there was no point in changing things for the sake of it, but we want it to develop and grow,” said Graham.
“One of things I love is that it’s a great way for people to meet. It’s different from other places. Here people tend to talk to other people who have dogs.”
The Barking Bistro also helps customers interact with dogs. One puppy owner – for example – brought his young son with him to a puppy socialisation class. The boy was nervous about other dogs after a bad experience, but the session helped him overcome his fears.
Animal lovers, who are unable to own a pet, are regular visitors to the café. “We get older people who come in just to meet dogs or people who want a bit of company and a chat, and they’re very welcome,” said Graham. “We’ve had a lady who was very ill who wanted to come in to see the dogs. We like to think we provide a community service as well.” The café supports charities for homeless people and dogs.
The Barking Bistro, 102 Whitley Road, Whitley Bay is open six days a week from 9.30am to 4.30pm. It is closed on Wednesdays.