It’s no secret many Westport property owners and merchants want America’s Pub to curl up and die.
Their fingers tightly crossed that owners of Manor Square will not renew the predominantly African-American themed dance club’s lease at year’s end.
"I bet they won’t be there after their lease is up at the end of the year," says one Westporter.
America’s Pub attorney Harris Wilder has another take.
"America’s Pub has had a very successful run and they’ve done very well under somewhat difficult circumstances," Wilder says. "And if the lease is not renewed, it will be Westport’s loss. I mean, who else can they get to go in there? Any new tenant will have to completely renovate the place. I don’t see how they can replace America’s Pub easily, but that’s not our decision."
Let’s cut to the chase…
Like the Harris House in the early 1990s and Stanford’s Club 504 in the late ’90s, America’s Pub has been the neighborhood scapegoat for the throngs of African-Americans youth that pack the streets of Westport, primarily late at night on summer weekends.
"When you know the facts, the scapegoating that’s gone on about America’s Pub is just ridiculous," Wilder says. "if the club didn’t have a primarily African-American clientele, not a word would be said about this. But that’s the reality we live in."
"Here’s the thing. The people who dislike America’s Pub and its clientele desperately want it to work out that America’s Pub leaves and some white knight literally comes in and brings a clientele that’s primarily white."
Now the reality:
"Look, Kansas City has a substantial African-American population," Wilder says. "What, are we kidding ourselves? If we had a proportionately representative population in Westport, 25 percent of the people in Westport would be African-American. If you go a mile to a mile and a half to the east it’s a primarily African-American neighborhood. Or there are substantial numbers of African-Americans who live there. And what, they’re not going to want to go to the entertainment district?"
The bottom line:
"This is basically a southern town," Wilder says. "I mean, Kelly’s was a slave market. We’ve come a long way, so to speak, but these tribal, racial things are not easy to erase in a culture. I’ve been to America’s Pub many times in both official and unofficial capacities. And basically these are young people out to have a good time. They may not dress like preppies – they may not look like preppies – but they’re just young people wanting to do the things young people have always wanted to do; hang out, flirt with the opposite sex and have fun. That’s what young people want to do."
"Are there guys out driving around with guns? Occasionally. But they’re not in America’s Pub. There has not been a single incident requiring a police arrest inside America’s Pub – not one."
It’s not America’s Pub that attracted blacks to Westport. The Plaza has had its fair share of youthful black gatherings over the years, yet it doesn’t have a black nightclub. The main difference being that the Plaza has a wealthly, powerful, influential landlord that has been able to flex it muscles and drive the urban youth away.
Kinda like how Cordish keeps the wagons circled at the Power & Light District downtown.
However, Westport has neither the money nor the political clout.
"Here’s the great irony," Wilder adds. "Let’s just say America’s Pub’s lease is not renewed. Will fewer young black people be coming to Westport? Probably. But there will still be black people coming to Westport. That’s where I think people are kidding themselves."