Zoning Changes and Kitten Showers

June was a big month for us at Mew Haven Cat Cafe. At the beginning of the month, the Board of Alders held a vote that would ultimately result in adding “cat café” as an allowed business use under the local zoning ordinances. This was of utmost important because the City Planning department determined that our business did not fit into any current classification; we were not merely a café, nor were we a kennel. We needed this new definition to realize our concept.  

If the Board of Alders voted positively, we would then have to apply for zoning approval to take advantage of the newly created “cat café” use. Because of the way that schedules lined up, we would have only a week and a half to submit our request. We had to quickly provide answers on a form that required in-depth zoning knowledge. In some cases, businesses choose to hire an attorney for this purpose – providing specific descriptions of the business model, detailed floor plans, and more.

June 4th arrived, and with it came the approval from the Board of Alders. This was a huge success for us, as the language adding “cat café” to the local zoning ordinance was created specifically for our use, and we don’t believe that this description exists under the zoning laws anywhere else in the country. Shortly afterwards, we submitted our application, and now, we wait for it to be reviewed by the Board of Zoning Appeals in the form of a public hearing next week.

Meanwhile, we were also planning to host another event – a Kitten Shower. Similar to a baby shower where people would bring gifts to help an expectant mother prepare for their newborn, a kitten shower is a party to collect food, blankets, and other supplies during kitten season, the time of year when kitten births are most prevalent. This year’s kitten season had been a particularly plentiful year, and our shelter needed more supplies. We recruited vendors to donate food, arranged for crafts and games to entertain attendees, and offered incentives to donate, like a kitten name raffle. For each dollar a person donated, they would be invited to submit a suggestion for a kitten name. Five names were then randomly selected at the end of the party. (For those curious, the names were Sherman, Taffy, Joey, Taylor, and Mew Radley.) The kitten shower was a rousing success, and we ended up filling two large moving boxes with food, toys, and blankets. If we could go back in time, I think one additional thing we could have done would be to encourage the press to attend. This could have increased attendance and thereby encouraged additional donations, as well as increased exposure to our shelter.

For the next month, we will be focused on the zoning hearing. Once that is approved, it is full speed ahead to opening. We do, however, have a couple of steps to take care of before bringing in cats: expanding our cat lounge, building a bathroom, furnishing the additional space, and hiring. But we do plan to have cats roaming our space by the end of July.

About the author

Angela Pullo is the 19th Small Business Grant winner. She is the owner of Mew Haven Cat Cafe. Mew Haven Cat Cafe is a coffee shop with adoptable shelter cats. With an hourly entry fee, people can come and play with cats. Some people can`t have cats, and this provides a form of stress relief. Some people who want to adopt can get to know the cats` personalities before they adopt.


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