Yet in the wide world of discouraging the kind of urban youth problems the Country Club Plaza is now embroiled in, every chess moves counts. And in the case of Westport – which doesn’t have to worry about teenagers flocking to Jerry Harrington’s art house cinema the Tivoli – it comes down to music.
That’s right, music.
In past years Kansas City’s original entertainment district has battled large groups of inner city kids in search of the late night good times afforded by stoking on hotties outside largely black dance clubs like America’s Pub, Karma, Club 504 and the Harris House. That and the occasional urban shows at the Beaumont Club.
Those clubs are all long gone and last summer was one of peace and love in Westport, sans the police checkpoints and cover charges to enter the district aimed at discouraging the youthful throngs in year’s past.
Until recently, when the Gusto Bar & Lounge reportedly went with a dance music theme that caused both it and business neighbor Kelly’s – Westport’s longtime magnet for cleancut, whitebread party types – to post restrictive dress codes specifically aimed at warding off gangbangers and the hip-hop crowd.
Restrictions warning customers not to don apparel such as “exposed underwear,” “wave caps,” “jewelry which poses safety risks,” “tank tops,” “baggy clothing,” “jumpsuits” and the like.
“It’s getting better,” says a source. “The crowds outside Gusto have really slimmed down. They’ve changed their music quite a bit. There’s still some dance stuff, but more techno – and no hip hop – that’s what I hear from their help. And the line outside is not like it was a month ago…It seems like the problem has dissipated.”
The $64 million question: where will the kids wander off to after KC Mayor Sly James’ kid programs Club KC and Mayors Nights let out every night?
The first Club KC hoedown kicked off last Friday at 7 p.m.
Former Club 504 main man and Westport bar owner Craig Glazer’s take on what’s in store for midtown this summer:
“That’s a tough one,” Glazer says. “I think Westport has done an incredible job with doing live events and opening restaurants that will appeal to an upper middle class clientele, but the jury’s still out.”
There’s more to the equation though than just “kids,” Glazer stresses.
“The black kids really aren’t just kids,” he adds. “Some of them are kids, but most of them are adults – angry, young people – and with them, you’ll have a problem. One mistake the Kansas City Police Department makes is trying to be politically correct. They put up with it too much.”
“They need to do what Kansas City, Kansas has done and just kick them out – make them leave the area or take them to jail,” he says. “Because they’re not there for any good purpose. That’s what KCK did at The Legends and The Legends doesn’t have any problems anymore – very few. Because they dropped the hammer about three years ago. Why pull punches?
“The cops would pull over anyone, any young black people or Latinos – only the assholes – and it’s pretty easy to tell who they are. The police know who’s who and what’s what 99 percent of the time.”
That may not be a problem this summer for Westport if things continue as they are.
The Plaza? Whole nother story.
Summer is blockbuster movie season and it’s highly unlikely that Club KC or any other city sponsored distraction will attract enough kids to keep the throngs away from Kansas City’s shopping and fine dining crown jewel.