Page 2 of 3
There were maybe 75 people downstairs — respectable but a bit tepid for an opening. (On Saturday night, a larger crowd turned up for an Angels vs. Devils party with DJ Sheppa and Hannah Hurrle.) The interior of the new Gusto is a vast improvement over its most recent predecessors. The building is roughly 150 years old, and the bar has elected to advertise that fact rather than conceal it, most notably via an abundance of exposed brick.
Danielle Metz, a gregarious redhead who serves as general manager, was tending bar, along with Ryan Shank, an old-school Gusto employee and drummer-about-town. (Jamie Vrooman, formerly of Harry's Bar and Tables, and Sonya Walker, formerly of RecordBar, are a few of the other Westport names signing on at the new Gusto.) Two whiskey and Cokes and a Budweiser came to a reasonable $11.25. The cocktails arrived in 12-ounce glasses. "Tastes like the whiskey and Cokes at the old Gusto," a friend said. Good or bad? "Not good," though he blamed the well-whiskey brand, not the pour.
"This is basically the Union," another companion was quick to note. She's essentially correct, and the overlap goes beyond the clientele. Neill Smith, who books at Riot Room and the Union, is charged with lining up music and DJs. Louder than Bombs, Bill Pile and moombahton nights, all of which either take place or have taken place at the Union, are slated for Gusto. And a handful of former Gusto DJs — Robert Moore, Ben Grimes — skipped out at the old location this summer and took up residencies at the Union. Given these correlations and similarities — to say nothing of all the egos involved — it seems improbable that Gusto and the Union could peacefully coexist a mere block from each other. Surely I am not the only Westport barfly sniffing out some bad blood on the horizon.
"We want to ... showcase local artists, art events, musicians, DJs, bands and vocalists, and the Kansas City film community," Vitti says of the new Gusto. Sounds great. Also sounds like a lot of places I know.
Xpressions, another joint with a checkered past (its 220 Admiral location was previously NV), hosted some wild times this weekend.
Earlier this month, Kansas City, Missouri, liquor inspectors, fed up with years of fights and shootings at the downtown club, were handed a victory when a Jackson County judge effectively revoked its liquor license. The club's owners, Eric and Natasha Union, are appealing that decision (the hearing is November 14). In the meantime, they were ordered to close Xpressions by October 24.
It does not appear as though Eric Union thought very highly of that particular ruling. According to a weekend police report, an investigator for the city's Regulated Industries Division stopped by Xpressions October 29 to confirm that the club was complying with the close order. He found several vehicles parked outside, and as he approached the club, "50–60" people scattered from all exits. He followed a few groups into an adjacent underground parking garage and eventually identified one of the men as Union. Upon spotting the inspector, Union fled upstairs to his apartment, a loft above the club. The investigator called the police. Union was coerced back down into Xpressions, and an investigation of the club was conducted.
Among the more damning pieces of evidence discovered was a credit-card receipt, dated that evening, resting atop an ice bucket, which was, poetically, still full of solid ice. (Also a tad suspicious was the Craigslist ad that Xpressions posted October 24 — the same day it was ordered to cease operations — seeking "AMAZING BOTTLE SERVICE WOMEN ... please include a picture with reply.") Faced with the challenging question of why an establishment that has been ordered to shut down is still ringing up credit-card sales, Union threw his business manager, a man he called Orlando, under the bus. Shortly thereafter, sure enough, Orlando appeared out of nowhere with a broom in his hand, "sweeping the floor with nothing being pushed by the broom," according to the report. Oh, hello officers, just tidying up this bar that has been officially closed for a week. Yes, of course at 3 a.m. on a Friday — what's odd about that? Of the smoking-gun receipt, Orlando limply stated that it could have been an old charge. Uh, hey Orlando, they put the time and date on those things. Aren't you the business manager?