It's sad when any restaurant closes. People lose their jobs. Vendors lose a client. The city loses tax income. And, if the venue was popular, patrons lose a favorite place to dine. The Beacon: A Kansas City Tavern (5031 Main), which two weeks ago posted a sign stating that it was "temporarily closed," shows no signs of rising from the dead.
At least one former employee calls the failed restaurant, which lasted just over a year, "a doomed experiment in a cursed location."
Another employee, former manager Cynthia Carr, says: "The whole place didn't make any sense. It was operated by a group of investors, and they all had different opinions on how the place should be run."
The concept for the restaurant was created by Whitten Pell, who had lots of great ideas for a neighborhood bar and grill (in his own neighborhood) but absolutely no restaurant experience.
"He didn't believe restaurant experience was important as being attractive," Carr says. "We had servers that had zero restaurant experience, and they stayed on the payroll because they were pretty. Servers with real experience who weren't as physically attractive were the first to be let go."
In Carr's telling, the wives of the investors were concerned that the restaurant would be a "boys club for the men, and they'd spend too much time there."
To make the wives feel that they were part of the operation, Carr adds, "They had a big event so that the wives could choose the new dishes that would be on the menu. Not the chef, not the employees - the wives. And it didn't occur to them to consider things that might sell. They went by their own personal tastes. They also had opinions on everything else in the restaurant."
Pell disputes this claim: "Yes, we had a menu tasting last September where the wives of the investors were invited, but their input past that point was meaningless. Most of the women there that night were well-to-do. They don't need something to do. That's a strong exaggeration of what happened."
Carr says Pell was bought out by the two major investors in the venue - Chris and Billy Hodes - last fall. Pell tells me, "The principals that took over the restaurant did not follow through on the commitment they made to the board. We were going to close the Beacon last October to avoid all of the issues that happened to Jack Gage and now appear to be happening to the Beacon."
Pell says that, though he has no connection to the restaurant, he is still receiving invoices for unpaid bills.
"It was a totally mismanaged operation," Carr says, "which makes it horrible to call myself a manager. But the investors never really let us manage. There was no money to do anything at the end. Sales had gotten so bad because of all of the rumors about the restaurant closing and the changes they kept making."
Chris Hodes has not returned messages from The Pitch.