MERRILLVILLE — The phrase “Region rat” is well known in Northwest Indiana, and Linda Ramos wants to make Region cats just as recognizable.
Ramos plans to open the Region Cat Cafe at 281 W. 80th Place, the site of the former Cafe Fondue.
Merrillville Planning and Building Director Sheila Shine said the business will mix an upscale coffee shop with a cat lounge, which she described as an alternative foster environment for cats to be paired up with forever families.
“If we can put animals in a more natural environment and allow people to come in and actually get to know them, then we’ll have better success rates with adoption and I think cats will end up in better homes,” Ramos said.
She will partner with the Lake County Animal Control shelter to foster six cats at a time, and they will be available for adoption to those at the cafe.
Shine said customers can mingle with the cats in the cat lounge. If they choose to pursue cat adoption, the Lake County Animal Control will handle the background checks associated with the process, she said.
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The cat lounge can seat up to 15 people at a time.
“Just for the safety of people and also for the comfort and the stress level of the cats,” Ramos said.
There will be additional seating and other areas to view cats in the building, including an upper level to the facility.
Ramos said all ages are welcome at the business, but children ages 7 to 12 can only enter the cat lounge with an adult. Those under 7 years old aren’t permitted in the cat lounge, but they can view cats from the other areas of the cafe.
“And that’s for the safety of both the cats and the children because anyone who’s had a toddler or someone young knows they move quick and cats sometimes don’t like that,” Ramos said.
She said she hopes to open the cat cafe as soon as possible, and she could close on the acquisition of the property this month.
Ramos took a step closer to opening the business after the Town Council on Tuesday granted a special exception authorizing the business to operate in the 80th Place location.
Ramos said the Region Cat Cafe will employ six to eight people when it opens.
“That will grow as the business grows, which we highly anticipate,” she said.
She said sandwiches, pastries, coffee, tea, soda and water will be served there. She also has a liquor license, and beer and wine eventually will be available at the cafe.
Ramos told town officials the Region Cat Cafe will be “unlike anything else,” and she believes the town will benefit from it.
“You will have to come to Merrillville if you want to experience a cat cafe, and that just draws more people to the community,” she said.
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