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Freddy’s Bar ditches dog fashion show for dreams of Fifth Avenue pet parade

Freddy’s Bar is known for its annual Doggy Fashion Show.

Freddy's Bar in Brooklyn won't hold its annual

Freddy's Bar in Brooklyn won't hold its annual dog fashion show this year. Photo Credit: Max Kristula-Green, Furtography NYC

Dogs donning sunglasses, feathered hats and glitzy dresses have congregated in South Slope for the past four summers for Freddy’s Doggy Fashion Show. This year, the pups are ditching the runway to make Fifth Avenue their catwalk instead.

“Freddy’s will not be doing the fashion competition,” paw-ganizer Donald O’Finn says, citing too much “red tape” from the city to receive proper permitting for the large-scale, outdoor gathering that serves alcoholic beverages — for the human attendees.

Instead, Freddy’s will host an outdoor doggy social meetup called Hangin With the Hounds — a casual evening of drinks, music and dancing with the furriest Brooklynites — that may evolve into the first-ever Freddy’s Dog Parade.

Dreaming big, O’Finn, who’s manned the bar’s current location since 2011, aims to get city permission to march a projected group of 50 dogs down a stretch of Fifth Avenue.

“Imagine, you’ve got all the dogs in a line, walking down the street, all dressed up,” he says. “I’m going to push for it to happen, but I just haven’t gotten permission to do it.”

If Freddy’s doesn’t receive permits to temporarily and safely close down Fifth for the pups, O’Finn still plans to arrange a smaller-scale parade that heads around the block outside the bar that “wouldn’t be nearly as magnificent.”

“Either way, I want to shift the vibe away from the competitive, confrontational-ness that’s going on everywhere,” says O’Finn. “It’s just freaking me out.”

Taking a more laid-back approach to the organization of the event that has drawn hundreds of fashionable competitors in the past, O’Finn says he’s hoping to allow the new meetup to take shape on its own.

“I just want it to be a social gathering, something like, OK, here’s a city block. How many dogs can we fit on the block and have everybody just get along?” He says.

The bar’s event listing, which isn’t being publicized as predominantly as it has been in the past (per O’Finn’s request), simply asks attendees to drop by at 5 p.m. on July 21 to enjoy drinks, small bites and DJ entertainment. O’Finn says he’s hoping dogs will show up in their best attire, though a dress code is notably absent from the posting.

Currently confirmed for the event is a red carpet walk where pups will get their portraits taken for free, a step and repeat photo wall and "Hangin With the Hounds" tags for all pooches who come dressed up. Comedians Jim Search and Maria Heinegg, who worked the crowd last year, will return to "stir up the pup in us all."

“I’m still asking people dress up their pooches, we just won’t be giving away trophies,” he explains. “I don’t want to make any little boys and girls cry.”

Competitors in the annual Freddy’s Fashion Show were known to duke it out for the coveted Xena trophy, the top prize named after O’Finn’s late red-nose pit-bull mix who worked the crowds at the bar until age 20. “She would literally sit on the bar stools and navigate the crowd with a whole pizza box in her mouth,” he recalls.

Though he says he’ll still find some way to honor his dog at this year’s event, the pressure of having to choose a winner of the award became too much to handle.

“It’s very difficult,” he says of his job as lead judge in the Doggy Fashion Show. “You’ve got this huge crowd that, inevitably, you can’t satisfy. Every year, there’s always a child that is left heartbroken. I don’t want to be in a position of having to make those decisions.”

Past winners include a dog named Trigger who dressed as a horse in 2016 and Moose, a golden doodle who dressed as a doctor, in 2017.

As the event grew in popularity, pulling it off became an immense feat for O’Finn.

“It also just became an overwhelming job to get the platform in as the runway, the steps, the insurance, the sponsors. It became almost a yearlong job to pull off this one event because it was getting so complex,” he notes.

That’s not to say the dog runway show that’s become synonymous with the South Slope bar won’t return again in the future.

“I’m thinking of doing it again, but it would have to be very different,” he says.

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