Who doesn’t love a good, old-fashioned train wreck?
And for the past four months, the wreck that won’t go away involves Kansas City’s leading jazz club Jardine’s. But hold it a minute before we go any further.
I hereby promise not to bog down in the endless stream of details – the few ups and many downs of this pathetically sad, ridiculously lame tale of musical chairs.
Suffice it to say, there are plenty of losers and villains in this jazz soap and precious few good guys and gals. But after making contact with Jardine’s owner Beena Raja and most of the key players yesterday, I can now report that…
It’s still a nightmare of monumental proportions.
Where to begin?
How about that despite a dearth of living, breathing, club-going jazz heads, cheerleaders like the Kansas City Star and oldsters of a certain stripe like little more than to pretend that Kansas City Jazz remains an important art form. Cherished by the masses who somehow are nowhere to be found in numbers greater than 20 to 50 – sometimes maybe 100 – on any given night.
Don’t get me wrong.
Having personally witnessed dozens of up-and-coming jazz musicians here (and their substandard counterparts in other cities), Kansas City is in a league of its own for quality jazz talent.
But in a city of 2 million people Jardine’s was lucky to lure a hundred or two on the best of its nights.
Leaving amazingly talented musicians like Mark Lowery, Hermon Mehari and Mark Southerland to play tiny, often ill equipped venues and chain restaurants and hotel lobbys before audiences more interested in polite conversation than revering KC’s live art form.
Jardine’s was the exception to that unfortunate rule, but since late last year it’s gone dark.
A number of people stepped up to try and save the club but one by one they fell by the wayside.
Until a pair of gay dudes with few connections to jazz came to the rescue. Or so it seemed. However none of the local jazz players seem to have a clue what happened to them, and they’ve not returned calls or texts requesting a comment for weeks.
More recently landlord American Century put the club up for lease to any and all.
The latest? At least three suitors hoping to buy Jardines remain in play.
Beleaguered Jardine’s owner Beena Raja says they include a member of former local band The Nortons, the owner of the Phoenix jazz club, former Sprint exec Paul Wilson and possibly the two dudes who pulled the wool over Fox 4 and The Pitch, announcing last December that they’d purchased the club.
The current state of the club according to Raja?
"American Century still has not given me a repossession notice yet so it’s still up for sale," she says. "And they’re taking the position now that they’re not asking for any back rent."
Until recently sources say American Century’s leasing rep was asking for back rent in the neighborhood of $25,000 to $30,000 for parties interesting in reopening Jardine’s as a jazz club.
"The position they’re taking as of last Monday is the property managers are allowed to show the space to anybody and negotiate a new lease," Raja says. "So they’re cutting their losses."
New owners would have the option but not the obligation to pay former owner Greg Halstead for Jardine’s innards – tables, chairs, fixtures and restaurant equipment. Because Raja defaulted on a $50,000 note still owed to Halstead and secured by the club’s contents.
They wouldn’t have to pay Raja either except for one thing.
They would have to pay her if they wanted to retain Jardine’s the 3 am liquor and Sunday licenses which they would be foolish not to hang onto while the getting’s good.
"I guess they could rent the place but if they want the 3 am license, they’ll have to come to me," Raja says. "I mean, they can apply for a new liquor license and they’ll have to pay the back taxes, but they’ll never get the 3 am license and the Sunday license will be hard to get."
For the rights to the Jardine’s name and to transfer the licenses before the time to do so runs out, Raja is asking $20,000.
As for the dudes who claimed ownership of Jardine’s last year and later told KCC they planned on reopening by early February, "They’re just complete fakes, I don’t know what they want to do," Raja says. "The Phoenix guys are interested in buying it, I’m meeting with them…"
The gentlemen did not return requests for comment for this and the last several columns.
Raja’s take on who the best bet to get Jardine’s is?
"I don’t want to predict that and jinx myself again," she says. "But I don’t think the gay guys are gonna get it – it’s just a mess."