Yep, the Strip has to hand it to Westport merchants. Over the past 5 years, they've been awfully creative in their attempts to chase away young, black Kansas Citians.
Used to be, summer weekend nights meant thousands of underage African-American partygoers crowding the streets of the city's entertainment district -- and take it from Bill Cosby, you know what that means.
Pants drooping scandalously low. Uncouth behavior. Unconjugated verbs.
White folks complained that they could barely go from one bar to another because so many rowdy, dark-skinned loiterers blocked the sidewalks.
And if white bargoers were nervous, white business owners were petrified.
So, over the past few years, barricades, curfews and a heavy presence of the city's finest have gradually eroded Westport's allure for African-Americans.
Sure, the campaign to shoo away listless black youths has been a little heavy-handed. But short of making it illegal to party in Westport while black, there simply hasn't been a more effective way to keep the east-side folks away.
Until now, that is.
Last week, this meat patty got its first look at Westport's newest attraction. Johnny Dare's, a glorified biker bar, celebrates KQRC 98.9's morning DJ with a glitzy combo of Harley-Davidson iconography, rock-and-roll paraphernalia and a tribute to trailer-trash culture.
After a couple of visits during the bar's blazingly popular first week, the Strip came away in awe of the genius behind the two-story drinkery.
Surely no Kansas City black person is ever going to feel comfortable in Westport again.
Johnny himself stood in front of his namesake venue during the bar's sneak preview last Wednesday night, wearing a big grin as photogs snapped him. But he looked like someone had crapped in his beer when this peripatetic porterhouse moseyed up and congratulated him on finding a way to chase black patrons out of the entertainment district.
"Please, don't make this about race," he pleaded, strangely refusing our congratulations.
It took this friendly fillet only a few moments to realize that Johnny, 35, is just about the most personable quasi-bigwig this town is ever going to produce. We took an instant liking to the guy, even if we find his morning show -- the most popular in town -- a bit tepid. We've never understood why some people refer to Johnny as a "shock jock." Just about every time we tune in, he's kissing up to another minor TV or movie celebrity in a phone interview.
Johnny continued to look pained as he insisted that he didn't give a rat's ass about the rest of Westport's merchants and had no idea whether his bar was a welcome replacement for Stanford & Son's, the comedy and dance club that preceded it, which had a mixed, urban clientele.
Johnny insisted that he'd just designed the kind of watering hole that he'd like to spend time in himself, a place where waitresses wear short, plaid skirts and white knee socks. "I like chicks in Catholic schoolgirl outfits," Johnny explained. "They make me horny."
It was obvious that Johnny didn't want credit for whitewashing Westport. So this tenacious T-bone sought out the Glazer brothers, the guys who really were behind the switch from black-friendly dance club to a pseudo-dive catering to large, middle-aged white men in golf shirts and loafers -- or prison sleeves and bandanas.
"Where [else] did this crowd have to go?" Jeff Glazer asked, referring to the eager Harley enthusiasts partying in the club. This side of beef had found its way to the business office upstairs, past the hi-larious reconstructed double-wide serving as an upstairs bar. "They've got a home now," he said. "And we've turned the corner on a new Westport."
Craig Glazer then butted in. "Westport has had three different incarnations," explained Craig, who has gone through a few incarnations himself. His father's original restaurant and bar, Stanford & Son's, helped spark Westport's original renaissance in the 1970s, he said. But by the late 1990s, the neighborhood had been transformed.
"This area, which had been a white-bread college area, changed dramatically," he said. Affluent whites fled to the surburbs, more people of color moved in, and bars and nightclubs that catered to them popped up -- as did the complaints. "Garbage, blight, crime -- what are those code words for? Black people," Craig said.
"Stanford's was the most successful mixed club in Kansas City," he boasted, clearly proud of his former role as impresario to the city's nonwhite entertainment seekers. But when Craig found out several months ago that he'd be losing the lease to half of his building, he knew it was time to try something different.
Craig said it was clear that other Westport merchants saw Club 504 as a main source of trouble. "Yeah, the neighborhood was upset with us," he admitted. However, he insisted that he turned to Johnny Dare simply as an old friend who could help him with a new theme for his restaurant. "It wasn't let's replace A with B. That's not fair," he said.
"Am I and Johnny doing a big favor to Westport?" Craig said other merchants may think so. "But just getting rid of the hip-hop crowd is not going to fix Westport."
Besides, he suggested, it wasn't necessarily his responsibility to provide entertainment to ethnic minorities.
"You know what? Craig Glazer is a white guy," he said about himself. And the Strip'll drink to that.