A new "cat café" could be coming to West College Avenue, if a zoning amendment is approved by State College Borough.
Prospective owner Sharon Myers hopes to open the café at 616 W. College Ave., the former site of late-night eatery Crunchee Munchees, which closed in July. Like a typical café, it would serve food and beverages such as coffee and tea, but would also have "fully vetted, adoptable cats on the premises to socialize and interact with patrons," according to the letter requesting the zoning amendment.
The cats would be obtained from an independent local animal rescue. If customers are interested in adopting one of the cats on the premises, the café would work with the local rescue to facilitate adoption and ensure all necessary adoption requirements are met.
"The goal of the cat café is to improve the community by creating a safe, comfortable haven for adoptable cats, while cultivating a fun and inclusive space for cat-lovers to work, relax and socialize," the letter said, noting it would be "another outlet" for cat adoptions.
Overnight boarding of the cats may be required, which is not currently a permitted use within the Urban Village zoning district. Myers requested an amendment for the zoning district to include cat cafés as a permitted use. Restaurants and cafés already are permitted in the district.
In addition to allowing the overnight boarding of cats, the request suggests requiring all cats to have vaccinations before being allowed on the premises and that cats' litter boxes and food be stored in separate quarters from where food and beverages are prepared and served for human consumption.
Borough Council voted 4-3 on Monday night to refer the request to the planning commission for review and recommendation. Council members Dan Murphy, Catherine Dauler, Evan Myers and Jesse Barlow voted in favor. Janet Engeman, David Brown and Theresa Lafer voted against.
Lafer said she was concerned that it would encourage people, especially students, to adopt cats that after a short time they can no longer keep.
"Students can’t always take their pets with them... then they get dumped on the street again," Lafer said. "I’m actually a little bit concerned this will facilitate that type of behavior. They’re there, they’re adorable, they’re sweet, they climb up in your lap and you really want them. I don’t know how well a cat café can vet a pet owner and that is a really serious job."
Council President Evan Myers pointed out that based on the information submitted, the café's role would be to facilitate the adoption process through a local rescue agency, which already works to vet potential pet owners.
"This café is just going to connect you as kind of an ancillary service," he said. "It doesn’t seem to me your concern is founded based on what they’re proposing."