Downtown Tabby: Tampa Bay's first cat cafe has plans for St. Pete

Locals could pal around with adoptable cats while eating and drinking.

click to enlarge A photo of one cat cafe featured on Downtown Tabby's Kickstarter page. - Downtown Tabby via Kickstarter
Downtown Tabby via Kickstarter
A photo of one cat cafe featured on Downtown Tabby's Kickstarter page.

The latest international trend to hit the region's culinary world may soon come from Downtown Tabby, a premier brick-and-mortar cat cafe that Ginger Boyd aims to open in St. Petersburg.

Cat cafes, which allow patrons to eat and drink alongside a bunch of furry felines, started in Asia, Boyd says. Popular in Japan, they've reached locales like New York, Madrid, London and, most recently, Washington, D.C.

Opening a cafe of her own is a project Boyd, who's been a vet receptionist at different animal hospitals for 10 years, has gone from thinking about to doing. She's attending free classes through St. Pete's small business incubator, The Greenhouse, to assist her along the way.

"It was really fun coming up with the name," Boyd says. "Once I got it I was like, 'I'm sticking with this.'"

The California native moved to St. Pete when she was 15 years old, and according to her, a cat cafe is another fun, quirky characteristic the city needs. She's scoped out a few locations for the concept, including a space off 16th Street North and another in the Warehouse Arts District not too far from Tropicana Field.

Among the expected demographic are college students who can't house kitties in dorm rooms, seniors who may have trouble taking care of their own pet, people who don't have allergies but live with those who do, and potential cat parents. In addition to beverages, Boyd plans to connect with local bakeries and coffeehouses to get snacks, pastries and the like delivered to the cafe, which can only offer prepackaged food.

Now, let's talk about the cats.

Every Downtown Tabby resident will be adoptable, except for one "ambassador kitty" that will welcome the newbies. With her background and connections, Boyd says she'll be able to find social cats looking for homes while at the same time freeing up space in community shelters and rescues.

"My cafe won't make a huge difference, but it will save some lives," she says.

Opening the feline wonderland is going to take a little help, though.

On Monday, Boyd launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for cafe expenses such as permits and licensing, cat supplies and an alarm system to keep the animals safe. Folks will receive tote bags, drink certificates, invitations to the soft opening and more depending on how much they pledge.

After the cafe's debut, cat-friendly gatherings like birthday parties, open mics and bridal showers will be incorporated. Unlike other cat cafes out there, Downtown Tabby won't require reservations.

"I want it to not just be coffee, tea and snacks," Boyd says. "I want it to be a place where local artists can put art on the wall, maybe have some quiet local music. I have so many ideas."

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