And bracing for the worst. Because while for the past several years it’s the Country Club Plaza that’s been garnering headlines about urban youth hanging out and making its more affluent, mostly white patrons uncomfortable and uneasy, the issue has started to spread back into Westport.
As evidenced by the ominous signs in the windows of Westport’s Gusto Bar & Lounge advising patrons that firearms and weapons are not allowed. Along with a dress code tailor made to ward off hip-hop types with “exposed underwear,” “wave caps,” “jewelry which poses safety risks,” “tank tops,” “baggy clothing,” “jumpsuits” and the like.
Gusto appears so worried about the crowd it might attract that there’s even a clause in bold letters at the bottom of the sign advising, “You May Not Modify Your Wardrobe At Time Of Entry To Meet The Dress Code.”
Which would seem to imply that once the club determines that you may be a gangbanger they don’t want you loopholing your way in by merely slipping into sheep’s clothing.
Shades of the colorful dress code at infamous Westport dance club America’s Pub.
That on the heels of word that Gusto’s crowd mix appears to be skewing more urban.
“You’re article’s a little early,” says one concerned Westport property owner who asked not to be named. “It hasn’t gotten bad yet because it’s so cold outside. I mean, even the Plaza just had a few people Saturday. Nobody has had any real problems yet until the weather gets warmer.”
Even Kelly’s Westport Inn – hardly a hip-hop crowd magnet – now sports a dress code sign in its front glass prohibiting “hoods worn on heads,” “excessively baggy clothing,” “doo rags,” “sunglasses at night” and the like.
“So far we’ve been lucky,” says the source. “And (Gusto) isn’t so much playing hip-hop as they are techno, some dance and house music…And I’ve heard they have a new operator maybe in the works.”
With the odd exception, things have been quiet in Westport in recent years in terms of attracting the sort large urban crowds that gave the entertainment district a black eye in past years. Crowds that resulted in blocking off Westport Road and charging a cover to enter the main bar area where America’s Pub was widely blamed by some for attracting the “wrong crowd.”
The basic issue:
“You’ve got to remember that south of the river in Kansas City, Missouri over 50 percent of the population is black,” says the source. “And there’s hardly any black clubs today with 3 a.m. liquor licenses. In the early 1980s there were nearly 30 clubs on the east side with 3 a.m. licenses, but because of problems, now there’s only a few left. So when 1 a.m. rolls around, they get thrown out of a lot of the bars and have to go somewhere else that’s open.”
The fear about Gusto being that, as was the case at America’s Pub, “the older people are on the inside and the younger black kids are on the outside because they know the other people are inside,” says the source. “Everybody is looking for a fun, safe place to hang out and Westport provides that.”
As do the Plaza and Power & Light District which have also experienced their socialization problems.
Westport Saloon owner Bill Nigro‘s take on the current situation?
“You know what, we don’t want any gangbangers,” he says. “It’s that plain and simple. We want Westport to be like Disneyland for adults – a fun, safe environment for people to come down and enjoy themselves. But anybody who misbehaves is not welcome and they have to go.”