Kevin McGraw: Owner Looks Back @ News Room – Good, Bad, Ugly

Twelve years is not that long a time when I look back,…

Twelve is actually an interesting number for me. I’m one of 12 children, there are 12 apostles and then there are the 12 days of Christmas. But enough of all that, I’m getting off track.

These are just a few words about a bar that for 10 years was my job, my passion, my life, my burden.

In 2000 I left a job of 10 years in the printing business to pursue my love of the bar business. To buy Kenny’s News Room.

I met Jack West – the guy I bought the place from  – at a Christmas party at the Hereford House downtown in 1995. We talked about the history of the News Room, specifically my history with it. It was one of the first bars I ever remembering being in. I was 10 and on a sales call with my dad who worked for Schlitz back then.

I drank my first beer that day – a shot glass with beer in it – and fell in love with bars. I told Jack that Kenny Morris, the originator of Kenny’s Newsroom, was a friend of my dad’s and that my dad took me in there that day on a call. I then told him that if he ever wanted to sell the bar to let me know.

And in December of 1999 at the Hereford House Christmas party, Jack walked up to me and said he was considering selling it.

Right there, right then, I asked him how much, he told me, and I accepted.

We got the deal done and served the first News Room beer on St. Patrick’s Day 2000 day, 12 years ago.

When we first got going it was fun, people from all over were coming in, the neighborhood folks were happy and there was energy back in the hood – back in their hang out.

It was a ton of work and just cleaning the place up was an ongoing battle for the first few months. The progress came slow, but after the first few years we were doing better than we’d projected. We were cruising.

In 2010 however, after many arguments, my partner decided to close the kitchen and we lost our Sunday license. Things started going downhill from there.

My partner and I had become at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of how we thought the place should be run. So I left in early 2010 to pursue the contract furnishings business. I felt that if I had not walked away, having two owners fighting like an angry married couple would be bad for business.

So I painfully, and angrily walked away, hoping things would turn around.

We had other problems too.

The city was not much help; the smoking ban that was enforced wounded the place like getting your kneecap blown off. And business went down. In fact, a lot of bar businesses revenues went down. The fact that we couldn’t be open on Sunday because we didn’t sell enough hot dogs was another blow, and I feel it was the shotgun to the chest that was going to put us in the grave. The city should allow any place that wants to be open on Sunday to do so.

Yes, then there was the nearby plasma center too. The perception was that steady gun fire forced people to constantly duck whenever they came into the neighborhood.

There were problems before in their former location but these problems really started to complicate everything along Broadway, not just at the News Room.

I remember allowing undercover cops to use our second floor of the bar to keep an eye on a growing drug problem that was occurring right in front of the plasma center on a daily basis.

The customers would exchange the blood money for drugs in the Pitch paper machines. There was a great article on it in the Pitch – a cover story called, “The Bloodsuckers of Valentine.”

Kansas City police would make many arrests one day, but the same guys would be back out front and in business in a matter of hours. It was amazing.

I remember having discussions with some of my neighbors about how to get the plasma center to relocate, but the owner of the building refused to cancel the lease he had with them.

It was all of those things that can bury a place, and when they come at you all at once, there’s nowhere else to go but Boot Hill.

So I bid the News Room farewell – I already miss it – and I want to thank you all for the last 12 years. I also want to let you know, I have high hopes for Broadway and the new owners of all the small businesses along that lovely corridor.

And I plead with the city to put forth an effort to really, truly help small businesses in Kansas City. I pleaded with them before but we couldn’t get it done. Moving forward I hope we all can learn from the mistakes that were made, and participate, and not alienate the small businesses of Kansas City.
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One Response to Kevin McGraw: Owner Looks Back @ News Room – Good, Bad, Ugly

  1. Shawn colby says:

    Great place, kevin is never afraid of taking risk. People like Kevin make life better.
    This only adds go other great things that are waiting in the further.

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