Hearne: Westport Nightclub Nabob Declares War on Kansas City Liquor Law

All’s fair in love and Card Wars…

For years Westport businessman Bill Nigro has waged a war of words against a pair of cards Kansas City has required workers in the service industry – bars and restaurants – to purchase and carry. Nigro polished one off – the health department’s "food handler" card – last month and as of this year, they are no longer required.

The so-called "health card" cost 20 bucks and required workers who handle food to take classes on hand washing and the like.

That leaves one last card on Nigro’s hit list, Kansas City Regulated Industries "liquor card."

"This is something that’s been debated on the council at length," says Regulated Industries head Gary Majors. "And we did systematically go through a lot of the regulations and modified some of them that didn’t make any sense – actually, a lot of ’em.

"As far as the liquor cards, that was one of two things that was hotly debated and the Public Safety Neighborhoods Committee decided (we) should keep them – that was the first time. The second time the law was changed and we came up with ordinance changes."

Ordinance changes to rules that banned convicted felons from working in the liquor biz. Ordinances that were struck down with the exception of murder, rape and sexual abuse of a child, Majors says.

"That was a hotly debated process and many of the council didn’t want to relax our restrictions at all," Majors says. "They wanted to keep all felons out, but the council approved it."

So twice in four years the liquor cards were discussed and debated, Majors says.

Persons working in the alcohol selling and serving biz are required to apply for the card by submitting their personal information to Regulated Industries (at a cost of $13 a year). Regulated Industries then processes that information and gives them a green light. Or doesn’t.

"What’s the purpose of the card?" Nigro counters. "To save me from hiring bad guys? We don’t need 10 people at Regulated Industries to pull money out of poor people to make cards. It’s just a way for the city to make money and they’re having a tough time admitting that."

The problem, Nigro says, is that minimum wage workers have a tough time with coming up with the cash – $40 up front for three years – and dragging down to out-of-the-way parts of the city to apply for the cards.

"I’m not saying it’s not tough on people just getting started," Majors says. "But I don’t think it prevents nearly the number of people (Nigro thinks it does) from getting a job. My opinion is, there’s some real value there, in more than one way."

Majors says he thinks it keeps bad guys out of the industry, but Nigro says, "We can police ourselves," Majors says. "We’ve given Bill a lot of what he’s asked for, but we disagree on some things."

"It’s a meaningless card," Nigro says. "I use them to pick door locks, that’s what I use mine for. I hope they can read it when they come in to check mine."

Which brings us to Nigro’s second gripe about the liquor cards.

And that’s that Regulated Industries and police come into bars and restaurants on busy nights and hassle workers at the worst possible time to make sure they have their liquor cards on them. And if they don’t, they send them home leaving the businesses short-handed.

"That’s not true," Majors says. "All they have to do is the business owners make a copy of the cards and keep them on file. Or we take the person’s name (who doesn’t have a card) and get back to them later. Then if they don’t have a card, we tell the business they can’t serve liquor and they can’t be a bouncer."

Hold it right there, Nigro says.

"They say they don’t send you home? How many bartenders do you want me to have call you to tell you they’ve sent people home? Maybe this is something new they’re doing because we’ve complained."

Nigro’s bottom line on the liquor cards:

"It’s a bigger insult than the health card, because at least with the health card they teach you how to wash your hands and keep warm things warm and cold things cold. They’ve used the liquor cards in the past to shake us down.

"They shove these cards down the throats of people who can’t afford them. They’re roadblocks to people trying to get jobs. I think it’s nonsense and that’s why I call them dumb cards. Half my employees don’t have cars and they have to find a way to get to 7th and Woodland to go get a card. It prevents owners from being able to conduct business."

Nigro’s New Year’s Resolution: to do to KC’s liquor cards the same thing he did last year to the city’s health cards.

The battle lines are drawn…

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24 Responses to Hearne: Westport Nightclub Nabob Declares War on Kansas City Liquor Law

  1. Orphan of the Road says:

    Good luck with that one
    Every major city has some form of registration for the bar business. Philadelphia recently added a new requirement that all bouncers be licensed and attend training.

    Sin taxes are hard to get off the books.

    Wait until MADD gets a law passed you have to swipe your driver’s license to buy you drinks in a bar or restaurant.

  2. Craig Glazer says:

    Credit Nigro,Kellys, WestFall and Crew
    The word is spreading with the city. WESTPORT IS REALLY COMING BACK….no hip hop, no rap, no gang type blacks, cleaned up 100% no violence just fun, hipsters,cute girls, 20-40 year old crowds, buys on weekends, and some weeknights…thank you Bill Nigor, Kellys James Wesfal and the KC Police and Westport security staff….great job and for closing America’s Punk, I mean Pub…its all whitey righty now…

    Nigro is right about the cards, not needed with other ways to check…like computors…Kansas does not use them nor do most cities..its a money grab thats all, second of all , who cares if a guy had a weed bust or got caught with a gram or even ounce or more of coke in 97, he’s watier or bartender for God’s sake, let the person make a living…this isn’t Nazi Germany…let it go, it means nothing….sure if he or she has 3 or more DUI’s ok, not a good idea to be around booze, or several violent crimes..but most cases are drug related….or shop lifting or something really not connected with being a waiterss or bartender….we need people employeed..simple as that….let it go…Bill is correct….again…

  3. Orphan of the Road says:

    Slightly disagree Craig
    The way it is done in KC, Philadelphia, NYC, etc is primarily a sin-tax and the intended purpose is something the average citizen is comfortable having the government perform. They think they are being protected but really just endorsing a money-grab.

    An initial registration process and a card is issued. Your name or card number would show up on a computer check.No need to carry the card or at least no penalty if you forgot it. Or maybe the cards of employees are kept electronically by the employers. Photo copies would be fine as well.

    Or they can just scan an employee’s driver’s license. That magnetic strip has access to everything about you.

    The wages of sin, the price that you pay
    Is worrying and fretting every second of the day
    The Church and the State, your God and Countrykind
    One gets your body, the other gets your mind

  4. Black Barbie says:

    Craig You Bitch
    Stop blamin black people for Westports crap. You will miss our money baby. We gonna go down to the Power and Light zone. They like black green. You’ll be sorry.

  5. kcredsox says:

    Are you Crazy Craig?
    I don’t really want a shoplifter taking my credit card for the night for my tab. Can understand why they don’t want drug dealers working at bars also, easy access to many customers, and I don’t mean bar customers. Possession of drugs and DUI I could understand they get lax on, but the others have potential to harm their bar. I do agree with Nigro, I think the owners should be able to police their own.

  6. kcredsox says:

    Black Barbie
    I don’t know if you know yet, but its not Power and Light district anymore, its the Power and White district. Good luck getting in there without getting harassed.

  7. paulwilsonkc says:

    kcredsox, I missed the joke…
    I thought she was upset at Craig referring to Bill as Nigro.

    Barbie, I dont think thats what Craig meant, even though I can’t and won’t speak for him. I DO remember the days of throngs of under aged kids, mostly black, clogging the streets in Westport, daring you to hit them in your car. I dont think thats an anti black statement, its just what I was. I’d have the same comment if it was white kids, it was just out of line. None of us can help it that they were blacks. Same as the “gangs”, using that term loosely, on the Plaza of late.

  8. Hot Rod says:

    They Are Bullshit
    Mr. Majors is not telling the whole story. If the business owner has an employee with no card on them at work they are sent home and the owner?license holder has to take time out of their day to go to Regulated Industries and sit in a “kangaroo court” to find out if they will be fined or closed down for a few days. Many people in the service industry work multiple jobs to pay their bills and feed their families. This “dumb” card is worthless to every one except the people working in the bureaucracy that these cards have created. The cit already gets its money from the earnings tax on the wages. A pure money grab from the poorer employed workers of this city. They must go. NO DUMB CARDS!!

  9. Bill Nigro says:

    Dumb Cards
    I sure don’t hear about any problems in KCK Bars and they don’t have any cards. No One in the state of Kansas has cards because they want poor people to get jobs. The state of Missouri doesn’t have the cards either because minimum wage people don’t have $41 to pay for them. I guess only KC has to protect us from bad guys, maybe we’re not smart enough to protect ourselves. Six yrs. ago KCPD did background checks for $1. Maybe we need to help KC put the process up for bid and save everyone some money. Kansas City has an ordinance that says KC isn’t allowed to make money on these cards. So why does it cost so much? Gary Majors has done an outstanding job, thanklessly working for KC for over 35 yrs. The first 28 years as a police officer becoming a Commander of Center Zone, KC’s busiest district. As head of regulated Indutries he does a great job of monitoring some of KC’s toughest businesses like liquor, cabs and tow trucks. Thanks Gary for working with us and helping clean up old laws. Lets help put people to work and keep small business alive. Bill Nigro

  10. Bill Nigro says:

    Health Cards
    THANKYOU Jason Pryor from the Mo. Restaurant Assoc.. He single handedly took down the health cards by using the Health Dept statistics against themselves. He has brought the MRA to a higher level of monitoring state and local laws. Thankyou again Jason and his Pizza 51 restaurants. Bill Nigro

  11. Matt says:

    Nigro’s right about one thing…
    Majors is top notch. Now that he’s figured out that he can’t get Gary fired (he’s very popular with the City Council) he’ll suck up to him.

    Word also has it that many on the Council are sick of Nigro throwing his weight around and they know that the Trolley deal he pushed (and the city financed) is nothing more than a scheme that stops at his pizza joint. If Biil succeeds with this card deal he should just shut up and go away for a while.

  12. balbonis moleskine says:

    Liquor is a heavily regulated industry. I think they have a right to keep violent felons out of the bar ownership scene. I think it would also be prudent to auto deny anybody convicted of selling narcotics. “Shadow ownership’ ahem, Stanfords, ahem, happens but you still have to find a rube, a patsy.

    If the $40 fee is so onerous to one seeking employment, Bill Nigro or any other bar owner is free to pay for the card themselves on behalf of the employee. I mean, those rough pieces of Jerky at Buzzard look like they’ve been pouring cheap whiskey poured into good bottles since the early 80’s– they probably have cards signed by H. Roe Bartle himself.

    I suspect this is more about Westport not wanting to scare away the young crowd that may have snuck an underage kid in. Westport didn’t like cop checks on liquor cards because the swine-y presence was clearing out their establishments.

  13. Bill Nigro says:

    Hi Matt, obviously you don’t know me. I’ve worked in kitchens and waited on people in Westport for over 35 years.. I love KC and am the 3rd generation born in KCMO. My father worked for KC for over 25 years. I’d like to help create a fun safe way to travel KC at nights. Crime and DUI checkpoints have made people afraid to go to KC. Isn’t it bad enough that our schools are driving families away?. Do we have to drive small business away too? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a better KC. Both Gary Majors and I have been trying to do that for a long time and thats why I still respect him. There’s nothing wrong with trying to fix the system either, and being vocal about it. Come down and see me every weekend at the Trolley stop in Westport, it’s Kansas Cities oldest and most beautiful block. I’ll give you a free Trolley ride. Bill Nigro.

  14. chuck says:

    Its hard not to like Nigro.
    Guy is smooth.

    I like a local guy, pulling for KC locally owned business’.

    There are some excellent comments on this blog concerning Casinos and the Power & Light District.

    I am in no way qualified to comment on the efficacy of those efforts with respect to how they helped or hindered local KC business’, but my impression is that, while jobs were created for out of town companies, jobs were lost for in town establishments.

    That is my impression anyway.

    I always try to support local business’ and local owners (I don’t go to Westport any more, but my kids do.).

    I do think Bill George is kinda workin our collective asses and he makes me uncomfortable.

    Jesus is that fucker nouveau riche or what?

    His house in Hallbrook just fuckin screams “I’M RICH!! I MADE IT!!! I GOT TONS OF SHIT!!! CHECK OUT MY WIFE!!! TONS OF WORK!!”

    I’m happy for the guy, but I don’t trust him.

  15. Matt says:

    I’ve been to your Trolley stop…
    and Bill…I do know you and obviously you’ll give anyone a free ride, there’s always room on those empty trolleys.

    I also know of your good works promoting Westport and I appreciate the work you’ve done in the your kitchen, etc. But……

    Here’s my beef…you’re always swimming upstream for smokers, drinking drivers and free hand outs from the City and your threats toward City Hall people (employees and elected) have become tiring. You did gain some traction with your Trolley scheme (which has been represented dishonestly over and over again) and the establishment of your “rights coillition”. You then unsuccessfully extended those “victories” into vetting Council candidates about “shaking up Regulated Industries” including the removal of Majors…. which would be wrong.

    You’ve now over extended with this card deal and you’re back to whining and sucking up. The City will not change the policy and here’s why:

    Bars that pay low wages hate any associated expenses for new employees they may discharge quickly or may themselves not stay around for long. If you and your bar buddies recruited and interviewed better there wouldn’t be the turnover thus the hassle with new applicants getting the card. If a better retention rate emerged it would make good business sense to just loan the new person the funds then payroll reduce it later. Re turnover, this is a CRITICAL reason that City Hall needs to be background checking people.

    High turnover industry’s are where criminals and addicts like to roll in and out and the City’s involvement is a good way to control it….relying on business owners to themselves sort out bad actors would be a joke and an un-safe way to ensure safe public policy.

  16. Bill Nigro says:

    Hi Matt, why don’t you put your full name here and tell me who you are. I suspect you’re not brave enough. You must have plenty of money and a measily $41 is nothing to you. Tell all the single moms that are broke in this town, that the city wants your money. Again, KCK has no cards and no problems and NO one in Kansas has them. I’m working tonite at the trolley stop, come by and intro yourself and I’d be happy to debate you and show you why the cards are bad for both the individual and the business. The cities Power and Light District gets over $12 million a year, every year, of our tax money. At least the city can help the rest of us by giving us laws that make business easier. I doubt you’ve ever owned a bar or restaurant or paid anyone out of your pocket. Don’t worry, I don’t bite… and yes the trolleys are slow on fridays, but busy on saturdays. Come visit and let me show you. Bill Nigro

  17. Hearne Christopher says:

    Bill hasn’t operated Torre’s Pizza for years

  18. RickM says:

    Apropo of nothing
    Most people would agree that the Blue Moose in Prairie Village represents the epitome of suburban watering holes where a black face is a rare sight. One night last week I was there and a fight breaks out. Soon after, multiple squad cars descended upon the place. Talk about a buzzkill.

    My point? ‘Problems’ can crop up at any venue with a bar, not just America’s Pub or anywhere else in Westport.

  19. Matt says:

    Not a matter of courage Bill…
    and I’m not interested in debating your expertise in political hardball as it relates to your business in Westport or the Trolley scandal. It’s a bunch of bullshit and a lot of people around town know it.

    Oh…and I’ve got good enough sense to have never EVER considered owning a bar or restaurant. 95% fail and the remaining 5% want the city to quit regulating. If it was worth it to me I’d take you and Glazer both on in a debate and by the time I exposed your strong arm tactics and Craig’s felonies all the neutral observers would surely want MORE REGULATIONS. Of course each debate judge would have to be screened re how much free beer and pizza, free trolley rides, free cabs/buses/limos (from your buddy Bill George) and free passes into the Beaumont you’ve spread around to become so popular.

  20. Bill Nigro says:

    Hi Matt, I knew you had no backbone. You’re not a doer, just a rock thrower. Why don’t you want to make Kansas City better? Move out if you don’t like it. Bill Nigro

  21. Matt says:

    Face it Bill…no one needs to know about me or who I am. They need to know about you.

    You fashion yourself as the “King” of Westport and your tactics are being exposed. It’s fine to promote your area, but your phony baloney activities and non stop political angling just plain suck. And no one with any influence is impressed with you hanging out at the Trolley stops holding court and “debating”. It’s really beneath the big shot status you’re always promoting for yourself.

  22. Bill Nigro says:

    Hi Matt, I work every weekend because I want the trolleys to work and I believe in the project. I gave my word to the city that I’d make it work. Again, you just throw stones and hide behind an anonomous name. Can you rename yourself, Chicken Little, the rock thrower. Bill Nigro

  23. expat says:

    RickM commits a type of fallacy of division — the hidden premise is that because problems can happen at white establishments, they happen at the same rate as at black establishments. However raw experience as well as crime rate statistics show otherwise: you are much less likely to wind up a victim of ‘problems’ of any kind at a white establishment than a black establishment.

  24. BarKeeper says:

    The One and Only Reason to Own a Bar….
    Is the cash rake-off every night. Come on guys, I’ve seen you move the Escalade, Mercedes, or BMW to the back door and leave with that FAT STACK of twenties, untraceable twenties!

    The next morning you’re preaching to the staff that you can’t possibly pay the same minimum wage as everybody else gets. You say it would make a steak cost fifty bucks and a draw of beer cost ten bucks, if you had to pay min wage. So the waitstaff and bartenders get two or three bucks an hour and whore for tips all night long.

    There’s not an owner breathing air that can honestly deny this fact.

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