Could A Cat Café Open Up in Boston?

It's not likely based on state and local laws, but it's not impossible.

The cat’s out of the bag.

After someone tweeted about the prospect of a “cat café” trying to claw its way into the Boston market on Wednesday, and then two blogs followed up by reporting on the prospect, the creators of the concept resurfaced—after a four month hiatus— and said they are still trying to become the first cat café in the country. “We are still working on this project. Our biggest step is getting permission to allow animals on the restaurant’s premises,” the force behind the feline fantasy, Miaou Boston, said via Facebook message.

They declined to further discuss the proposal—at least until they have a more detailed plan.

According to both state and local laws, there would be some serious hurdles to clear before customers would be able to stroll into a lounge filled with stray cats, however; something Miaou Boston is quite aware of.

“I’ve had this idea for a while now ever since learning about them through the internet a couple of years ago,” Miaou Boston wrote on the blog “Cat Café Dream,” adding that they are aware of the health concerns that could come with trying to open the shop. “This is still a crucial step that will determine if this will be able to happen or not. We still have to talk to the Board of Health in Boston to see if there’s a legal way to allow cats into the restaurant. We have thought of preparing food off-site or just serving beverages as a way to combat going against food regulations.”

A cat café would feature felines roaming around the business freely, and customers would be able to pet and interact with the cats while sipping coffee. The concept is big in other parts of the world, including Japan, and France.

But Nicole Murati Ferrer, chairwoman of the city’s Licensing Board—who was slightly surprised by the idea—said before Miaou Boston could secure any sort of license for their proposed business, they would have to go through several city departments first. “If they are serving food it would be more of a concern. This might not be a huge concern if it was only serving coffee,” she said. “My first step suggestion to them would be go to approach Inspectional Services, and speak to ISD, and the Health Department. Because if they say no, it’s something we wouldn’t approve. If they were to get approved by them, then it would just be if it was a regular application, and what we discuss then is if there is public need for the business, and if it would serve the public good. If all those are ‘yes’, ‘yes,’ and ‘yes,’ then we would go ahead and approve it.”

A call to the city’s Inspectional Service Department was not immediately returned. While there are still a lot of gaps in how this process could move forward, state law bars eateries from having animals inside, unless they are service animals. Companies can file for a variance in order to obtain special permits through their local health boards, however. There are also a lot of dog-friendly restaurant spots in Boston that cater towards canines, but the concept of multiple cats wandering around a café is something that hasn’t been done before.

But one can dream. “I’m very serious about this and determined to have it created by the end of 2013 in Boston,” according to Miaou Boston, who said the plan would include teaming up with an animal shelter to help save stray cats. The group also said they wanted to create a Kickstarter campaign to help fund their business idea. “I’m willing to fight tooth and nail.”