Hearne: Historic ‘News Room’ on Broadway Closes Its Doors

“I finally sold it,” says The News Room owner Kevin McGraw

And just like that one of Midtown’s most venerable watering holes faded into the history books a week ago today.

“I was told Ernest Hemingway used to go there,” McGraw says. “And Wes Lyle, the famous Kansas City Star photographer used to come in after I bought it in 2000. He’d been coming in there for 40 years and he gave me photos of Harry Truman and one of Tony Orlando doing the bump with Betty Ford when she was hammered. I hung them all in the bar as an ode to him.”

Prior to McGraw’s tenure at The News Room it was called Kenny’s News Room and gosh know what names prior to that.

“I wanted to keep that element,” McGraw says. “From when all the Kansas City Star reporters would go there. There was a trolly that ran down Broadway and they could go there really easily. People would bring in their typewriters and write stories – that was back in the ’40s. And when Kenny bought it in 1968 a different generation of reporters came in there. But it wasn’t named the News Room in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s before Kenny bought it.”

Did the reporters continue to come in after McGraw took over in 2000?

“Absolutely,” he says. “But they were drunk and retired. And a lot of them I really didn’t know by name. To me it was like they were Gin & Diet, Scotch & Milk, a Shot of Crown with a Miller Light Bottle or Rum & Diet. That’s how I knew a lot of the people. It wasn’t really much of a writer’s bar when I owned i, but I didn’t want to take away The News Room name because it had become iconic.”

Years of thin profits and a difference of opinion among co-owners is why McGraw says they sold it. That and the seedy customers from the nearby blood bank.

“It really did hurt,” McGraw says. “The element it attracted – the sketchy people, a lot of them on meth and a lot of people on scary drugs – it intimidated people. It created the perception that it made the area dangerous.”

Movie and real estate guy Butch Rigby bought the building, McGraw says.

“He’s a good guy and he leased it to Zach and Adam Cartwright,” McGraw says. “And I think they’re going to call it The Black & Gold Tavern and make it a Missouri sports bar. They’re going to put a bunch of flat screen TVs and bring back the kitchen. And I think that’s good for Midtown. To me closing The News Room was a heartbreaking thing.”

Which goes hand-in-hand with the demise of the bar’s former customer base at the newspaper.

“I think that’s a great parallel,” McGraw says. “It’s like the whole culture is shifting. People don’t go out to drink at bars as much anymore and I think that’s a good thing. You know, drunk driving.

“And I’m looking at the Star’s press building right now on my deck and I just wonder when its last day will be. And I think we’ll see that soon. And I wonder why they spent $200 million on that building.

“I mean, I look at it and clearly the business isn’t thriving and their business is going down – and how could they not know? And what are they going to do with it? I mean, you can’t put condos in it. I feel like the decline of the Star is a very interesting parallel to the decline of The News Room.

“It was a fun ride and I was real proud of it. We set out to make an old, classic Chicago / New York style tavern and I think we did it.”

 

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9 Responses to Hearne: Historic ‘News Room’ on Broadway Closes Its Doors

  1. the dude says:

    Damn, this was the other bar I would have recommended having the Holiday rumpus at besides the Uptown. Going down like flies they are.

  2. Jimbo OPKS says:

    What was the name of the bar in midtown in the 60s that was in an airplane? I seem to remember seeing in from the outside when I was a young lad, but can’t find out a name or location. Thanks.

    • Super Dave says:

      I was in that place in the 70’s once myself tiny little place it was. But just a little watering hole it was for a regular group of people I am sure. But for the life of me I can’t remember the name of it. As well there is a story about it I do remember that but I’m not real sure of it so will not say anything. Wish someone would come along who did know or remember it.

      There you go Hearne a new story line to go seek out.

  3. Rick Nichols says:

    Yes, Mr. McGraw may well be on to something here – the closing of The News Room could be a harbinger of things to come inside the News Room at 18th & Grand, particularly in light of the developments over there earlier this week. This is a nostalgic piece, of course (thanks for innocently setting me up, Hearne) so in keeping with the theme of “remember when”, allow me to take you back to a time amid a “magical” golden era when both the bar and the paper were riding high in terms of their general popularity. Return with me if you will, then, to 1953 and, to be more specific, the day of the annual American Royal Parade in downtown Kansas City. Over at The Star, managing editor Roy Roberts is clearly the man in charge, dispatching a bevy of reporters in all directions to cover a wide variety of stories while a young sports writer assigned to the Blues beat “learns the ropes” a la Ernest Hemingway 35 years earlier. Nearby, soon-to-be-married sweethearts from two prominent families revel in the sheer joy of young love, easily caught up in the excitement of the moment as the procession, now on the move, advances in the direction of 18th & Grand. Drum roll please …

    The Official “Unofficial” Lyrics for The Kansas City Star March (copyright 2012)

    Strike up the band, let’s have a melody
    We’ll meet on Grand, next to the canopy
    I’ll take your hand, we’ll step in harmony
    Great plans we’ve made, a big parade, and it’s front page in The Star

    Strike up the band, let’s have a melody
    We’ll meet on Grand, next to the canopy
    I’ll take your hand, we’ll step in harmony
    Great plans we’ve made, a big parade, and it’s front page in The Star

    Get onto your feet and into the street and then follow me
    Get onto your feet and into the street and then follow me
    Get onto your feet and into the street and then follow me
    Our band’s the best by far – read all about it in The Star!

    Get onto your feet and into the street and then follow me
    Get onto your feet and into the street and then follow me
    Get onto your feet and into the street and then follow me
    But we won’t march too far – need to sit down and read The Star!

    Oh, yes, there’s plenty of news in KC’s Star
    Reporters were out their shoes for Mister R
    The way they cover the news they raise the bar
    No matter who you are you ought to read The Star

    The cub is paying his dues at KC’s Star
    Just got some tips he can use from KC’s Star
    He’ll do a piece on the Blues for KC’s Star
    Sure glad that Kansas City has The Star!

    Oh, yes, there’s plenty of news in KC’s Star
    Reporters wear out their shoes for Mister R
    The way they cover the news they raise the bar
    No matter who you are you ought to read The Star

    The cub is paying his dues at KC’s Star
    Just got some tips he can use from KC’s Star
    He’ll do a piece on the Blues for KC’s Star
    Sure glad that Kansas City has The Star!

    – 30 –

    By the way, those wishing to listen to The Kansas City Star March to see how well you think my words match up with the tune, just go to KansasCity.com, click on “About Us”, then scroll down and on the right you’ll see the button to click on to make the selection, a two-step march in three sections, play.

  4. Hearne — That damn place was never a reporters’ hangout, at least not after I arrived in 1969. I went in there once with a reporter buddy named Bob Dye, and we left after one beer. In the late 60s and through the 70s and into the 80s, Kelly’s and The New Stanley were the two main places where the reporters went.

    And, God, the Stanley was fantastic. Lots of women and a fever-pitch atmosphere. I remember one of the first nights I went in there after Jim Kreamer (sp?) bought it, and he came up to me and said, “I appreciate your patronage; if you ever have a problem here, let me know.” After that, I seldom went back to Kelly’s, where Randy Kelly once refused to let me go to the bathroom after he had sounded last call. (Randy has been in the “marine” business in the Ozarks for many years. Kyle and Pat, his more congenial brothers, have continued running the bar.)

    About The Stanley…I met my wife Patty in the back room in August 1983, after I had quit drinking. I was drinking Perrier (disgusting stuff) with a group of reporters at the big, round table when Patty and her friend, sitting at a small table by the side window, caught my eye. I went over and said, “Say, my party is a kind of boring…Can I join yours?”

    Two years later Patty and I were married. The woman she was with, and her husband, are still very good friends of ours. (The other woman’s husband wasn’t with her that night, so I made an inspired choice.)

    Ah, sorry to digress, but get me talking about Westport bars and it all comes rushing back.

    JimmyC

    • admin says:

      Yep, that’s what McGraw said – it was only a washed up, older reporters hang. No trolly, no cool young reporter studs like you. But it had its history and its name.

  5. smartman says:

    Spent a lot of time and money there, (and at Meierhoff’s), in the late 70’s to early 80’s. Never remember any reporter types hanging out. At the time they had the best F’n cheeseburger known to man.

  6. I spent many a drunken night at the News Room in my early 20s. I never felt like I was in danger, but I WAS in my early 20s. And way drunk. Sad to see it go, but I won’t necessarily miss it. Chez Charlies always felt more welcoming, anyway.

  7. God, I didn’t know so many smart guys were stumbling around over there at Kenny’s. I wish I would have tried it a few more times; maybe I would have run into Smartman and Leftridge.

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