I see that the old Stanford‘s and Johnny Dare’s is reopening this weekend as the Hell Bar.
I wish them luck, I really do. They’re gonna need it. Having done this with Dare seven years ago, I learned a lot about the biker bar biz.
First off, Westport’s a tough, tough nut right now.
We all know why. When Dare and I did the remake of Stanford’s in March of 2004, we were following an icon, Stanford and Sons. It was a nationally known spot that had huge success for decades. The reason for the change was simple; we were being kicked out of our adjoining comedy and dance club space owned by a separate real estate group. We were allowed to maintain our original area owned by the Langdon Family.
Unfortunately it turned out to be far too small a space for the Dare project.
Johnny Dare’s had bike parking in front along Westport Road. That was huge.
Everyone wanted to look at the bikes and hear them roar as they came and went. Johnny and I met with KC Police Chief Jim Corwin to get that done. The chief couldn’t have been nicer. Police are Johnny Dare fans – hey, who isn’t? So we had that going for us.
My family and I spent $450,000 to redo the place. A fourth of that was to add all the metal out front that gave it a Mad Max "Beyond Thunderdome" effect. We put in a new bar, and so on. We even made the upstairs a trailer park joint complete with Dare hats, T-shirts and other swag.
All of that worked…at first.
We turned the restaurant into a BBQ joint but it was too small to seat very many people. We also couldn’t do much food at night because when the bar got busy it overwhelmed the food area.
I also learned that people on motorcycles watch what they drink.
They don’t want to get boozed up and crash into somebody. So liquor sales were far less for that reason.
Overall those were fun days. We got tons of press, mostly positive, and Johnny helped by reminding listeners to go down to the bar. We had huge lines when we opened. Weekends stayed strong but weekdays fell off and our overhead was just too high.
Also, Stanford’s took in big time door money and we couldn’t do that at Dare’s. It was really just too small.
And rain was a big killer and cold weather. Bikers don’t like that, who does?
Something else we had at Dare’s was smoking hot waitresses.
We were the last ones standing in Westport on that one. When you think about it not that many bars today have many hotties working there. Sure, some restaurants have cute gals, but not so much in the cocktail areas. Why? The big money just is not there anymore.
Hooters is about the only place that keeps up on the smoking hot babes anymore.
We did have our share at Johnny Dare’s. And those Catholic school girl outfits didn’t hurt.
Yeah, it was a blast.
Maybe if we’d done it out South it could have continued. Who knows? Others have gone the upscale "Biker Bar" route since, but none have really worked. The one out south in Overland Park, Fuel, started out a bit like us, but quickly became more of a sports/coyote ugly/dance club type place. Right now there are no big time biker bars around.
The good news for Westport is with Karma gone and America’s Pub likely to follow, at least this place won’t be a hip-hop club. That will help.
They’ll also have a great bartender in Big Eric. He’s the best.
Just meeting him may be worth the trip to Hell and back.