One year ago vaunted Plaza area jazz club Jardine’s hit the skids. That after a Thanksgiving holiday week from hell that spun out of control leaving former owner Beena Brandsgard trapped in an ugly, out-of-control tailspin, the club in tatters and bringing to an end its reign as the Cowtown’s premier jazz nightclub.
“They have until the close of business this Friday to breath life into continuing their (liquor) license,” says Kansas City Regulated Industries head Gary Majors. “They would have to submit a renewal request by Friday, but we have no indication they intend to do so.”
That after Regulated Industries – aka Liquor Control – has sent letters and made phone calls attempting to contact Brandsgard and the club to inform them of the impending deadline. With zero response.
“So our assumption is they are out of business,” Majors says.
That saddens former Jardine’s co-owner and longtime local jazz devotee Pat Hanrahan.
“If anybody goes in there now they’d have to completely start over to get a new liquor license,” Hanrahan says. “There were a lot of people interested, but nothing ever came of it. And they were mainly interested in the space, but not the jazz thing. I talked to a couple people from Wichita this past summer who liked the location but not the space.”
“Kansas City’s premier jazz club Jardine’s has been closed since Tuesday’s Karrin Allyson concert there ‘for repairs.’ That’s what the sign says, anyway. But local musicians and Jardine’s staffers don’t seem to know exactly what’s going on,” I wrote last December 3rd under the headline, “Vaunted Plaza Jazz Club Jardine’s Fires Staff, Closes for ‘Repairs’
“‘I regret to announce that my band WILL NOT be performing tonight at Jardine’s Jazz Club,’ musician Dave Stephens wrote on his Facebook page at 6:07 p.m. Thursday. ‘The owner of the club fired her entire staff yesterday and subsequently there would be no one there to work the show. My apologies to those of you who were planning on attending. I just found out about this a few minutes ago.'”
From there it got uglier with Stephens granting interviews and grousing about not getting paid, his check bouncing and Fox 4 reporting that “the owner fired all of her employees for stealing and drinking on the job – a claim denied by employees.”
“Suspicious of improprieties, owner (Brandsgard) changed the locks two weeks ago, then let the entire staff go after Karrin Allyson‘s shows early last week,” I reported last December 8th. “The club’s been dark since.
“And to date, for the most part, mum’s been the word. Which of course didn’t stop local television news channels from lining up nameless ex-staffers to air their beefs.”
At which point Brandsgard resurfaced here and told KC Confidential that hourly staffers would be paid the money owed them, which she estimated to be in the neighborhood of $700 to $800.
Unfortunately a musician boycott – believed by many to have been sparked by an email circulated by Sons of Brasil front man Stan Kessler. Kessler lead his band off the stage at Jardine’s shortly before they were scheduled to perform after his stepson – a server at Jardine’s – had had a run in with Brandsgard that resulted in her calling the police on him.
Kessler is on record as denying that he called for a musician boycott.
“Dave Stephens started it all when he said his gig was cancelled and Beena stopped payment on his check,” Hanrahan says. “Stan says he didn’t send the email and everybody else says he did. I didn’t know what to believe (because) I never saw it.”
Brandsgard hastily assembled a new staff and tried to reopen but the musician boycott thwarted those efforts. And as the red ink mounted she was unable to make good on her pledge to repay staffers.
“Yeah, the musicians – whatever the hell they were doing – and I’m not just talking about Stan and Dave Stephens,” Hanrahan says. “People would agree to play there and then not show up and then the staff went picketing on television and all that crap and Beena being out of control and in hiding.”
A parade of interested parties came and went over the ensuing months – would be rescuers of live jazz in Kansas City. The most high profile being the pair of gay dudes who went as far as to pay off one of Brandsgard’s monthly payments to former owner Greg Halstead from whom she had purchased the club years earlier.
“They called Channel 4 and they had a key to Jardine’s and they went inside the place and filmed a thing saying they’d bought the club and that they owned it and it was all bullshit,” Hanrahan says.
The sad reality today being that one year after the fact, the club remains dark, local jazz musicians have been left to have to scramble for gigs and its liquor license is on Death Row.
“They’ve got to be hurting,” Hanrahan says of the musicians he used to book. “Some of them are getting some gigs at the new Kill Devil downtown and there’s a coffee shop way out south in Johnson County but they can’t be paying much.”
There’s also the Phoenix downtown and The Blue Room and Mutual Musicians Foundation that soldier on in the historic 18th & Vine area, along with a smattering of hotel bar and suburban restaurants that book jazz.
“This town is starving for a new jazz place like Jardine’s,” Hanrahan says. “I think a lot of people miss Jardine’s and what it provided. I think this leaves a big hole – not as big as when the Grand Emporium closed – but pretty close. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who miss the place, musicians and patrons alike. It’s too bad for Kansas City and live jazz.”