It's official: Ernesto Peralta is closing the four-year-old Plaza location of Blanc Burgers + Bottles next month - he plans to be out of the space at 4710 Jefferson by January 31 - and returning to Westport. As we reported in Fast Pitch last month, Peralta had already leased the former Simply Breakfast location at 4120 Pennsylvania. He chose not to announce putting a Blanc Burgers in the space until after he had successfully negotiated a release from his Plaza lease.
Peralta and the Plaza came to an agreement, and Peralta will begin moving furnishings and equipment out of the Plaza venue by mid-January. Peralta says: "In a perfect world, we'll be open in the new Westport location by mid-February.
Peralta says he has no regrets about moving the original Blanc Burgers + Bottles to the bigger, more expensive (and less visible) location on Jefferson.
"The Country Club Plaza is a very iconic location for any restaurant," he says. "And we did very well there in the beginning. But after the economy faltered, people started being more economical in their dining decisions. We felt it was time to return to a smaller venue where we could also stay open later."
Peralta, who joined forces with Kansas City-based Leap Hospitality in September, says the new Blanc in Westport will serve food every day until midnight. (At the Plaza location, he stayed open until 10 p.m. during the week and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.)
The new restaurant will be smaller than the Plaza venue and slightly larger than the original Blanc at 419 Westport Road (in the space now occupied by the Westport Cafe and Bar) and will seat 95 patrons. Peralta says he'll give his Plaza staff an opportunity to reapply for positions in the new Westport location, but he figures that the new Blanc will use the same number of employees as the larger Plaza operation because of its later hours.
"We will not be adding to or minimizing the Blanc menu for the new restaurant," Peralta says. He adds that the new restaurant will be closer in style and concept to his Leawood location at Mission Farms.
Peralta thinks his timing is right for moving to the stretch of Pennsylvania that already boasts the popular Port Fonda restaurant and is getting, later in 2014, Julep (a new cocktail lounge created by Beau Williams and Keely Edgington) and Ca Va (Howard Hanna's champagne bar).
"I feel that Westport is really on the cutting edge again," Peralta says. "It's very cool, a real local destination point that attracts both young hipsters and empty nesters. It has the best Kansas City has to offer right now."
The solid popularity of Port Fonda, however, has created a new challenge for this area: parking. Peralta says that he will be offering valet parking and will have a certain number of designated parking spaces in the circle drive in front of the restaurant.
"I've learned a lot over the last four years," Peralta says. "I wish I had known then what I know now. But the knowledge is going to help make the new Blanc a better, stronger restaurant. It's going to be a fresh, young, vibrant place."