The plan was simple: Send two correspondents out on the same night to Westport and the Power & Light District.
Ever since the P&L opened this past spring, we've heard stories about how other local bars have suffered. We wanted to see whether the newest entertainment district in town has affected the city's oldest entertainment district. Plus, we wanted to examine for ourselves what both places are really like on a typical weekend.
So on a recent Saturday, we went out to gauge the temperature of nightlife in Kansas City. We tried to hit similar bars at the same time — for example, Kellys in Westport versus McFadden's in the P&L. But as any seasoned bargoer knows, sticking to a pub-crawl schedule isn't always possible.
For this report, Jen Chen headed to Westport, while Crystal K. Wiebe covered Power & Light.
What did we discover? The liquor still flows, the music still plays and the cops are occasionally still necessary. And we figured out that this town seems capable of supporting two rocking entertainment districts at once.
Power & Light 7:15 p.m.
There's a 20-minute wait for a table at Gordon Biersch, the anchor establishment at the corner of 14th Street and Walnut, so we decide to kill time at the bar. The tab for a Dr Pepper and a vodka and Red Bull: $13.79. At least the atmosphere is good. The ceilings are high, and the open patio doors allow in natural light and fresh air.
We're ushered to a booth facing the 14th Street patio. Around us, clean-cut couples — some in their 20s, others middle-aged — dine on pizza and steaks and order tall glasses of the brewery's signature beers. Waiter Shawn Bryant coaches us through a beer flight (Golden Export tastes like Bud Light; Märzen has the highest alcohol content) and steers us away from the crab-and-artichoke dip. But he can't advise us on where to go in the Power & Light District. "Everything is so expensive upstairs that I've never really been," he says.
After our meal, Bryant wishes us luck. "Come back and tell me what's best," he says. "Write it down, please!"
Westport 8 p.m.
It's a lovely summer night, and most of the tables on the patio at McCoys are occupied. Inside, though, is a different story — the restaurant is sparsely populated. At the bar, I order an $8 burger and a $4 shandy.
Sitting nearby is Brian Poel, a nattily dressed guy with a shaved head. He wears a white textured polo shirt and slim-fitting plaid pants. He's a 32-year-old registered nurse and a Westport regular. "I'm loyal. I've been coming to Westport for about 14 years," he says.
Poel gives a sociological breakdown of how Westport has changed since Power & Light opened. "It's been profound," he says. "It's less crowded now, so it's easier to get a drink." The annoying people who came in only on weekends have moved on, leaving a local crowd. "Now the people who want to be here are here," he says.
Power & Light 8:23 p.m.
There's already a line at the ID checkpoint at the entrance to the district's main area, called "Kansas City Live!" A security guard checks my driver's license and stamps "Power & Light District" on my right hand. It's the first of many brands that will serve as a record of my whereabouts.
Upstairs, no one's waiting in line to get into Howl at the Moon, but the joint is packed. Cheers and applause erupt inside as we approach the door. We pay a $5 cover and squeeze into a slightly elevated area with a good view of the stage, where two pianists face each other. When "Land of 1,000 Dances" comes on, about seven female Howl employees get onstage to demonstrate the mashed potato and the alligator. Dollar bills stick out of their tight black tank tops.