Westport Road between Main and Broadway was blocked off in the last days of 2011 after an air-conditioning installation went awry, igniting a blaze that ravaged the 175-year-old Westport Presbyterian Church. Days later, the street reopened, and everything returned to normal in Westport. Right?
No, no. The same day of the fire, Stone Spirit Lodge, a "metaphysical store dedicated to awakening your wild joy," held a public auction of its inventory. The new-age shop closed after a little more than a year in business at 309 Westport Road. Looking for kyanite crystals and dowsing pendulums? Try online.
Spivey's, toward the western edge of Westport Road, fought the good fight for more years than could possibly be expected of a rare-book and map store in Kansas City. But owner David Spivey is retiring, and his collection of treasures has been liquidated via an online auction. As of 2012, Spivey's is officially no more, although who knows how long it will take to haul all those 18th-century encyclopedias and 30-pound books about Impressionism out of that cave.
The big year-end Westport whopper, though, was the departure of America's Pub. The club's lease at Manor Square expired and wasn't renewed. New Year's Eve marked the notorious nightclub's final evening in operation. How is the neighborhood feeling about this?
"We're anxious to see a new tenant join in the revival of Westport as a people-friendly district," says Colleen Kelly, day manager at Kelly's Westport Inn.
"I don't think America's Pub leaving will change the landscape in Westport too much," says Mike Tiffany, general manager at the Beaumont Club.
"I think it's probably a good idea," says Jerry Harrington, owner of Tivoli Cinemas. "There's enough bars in Westport as it is. One less is probably a good thing."
Even Harris Wilder, America's Pub's sound-bite-generating attorney, is getting in on the civility. "It's been a clean break with Manor Square so far," Wilder says. "At this point, Manor Square is being cooperative. We're doing everything we can to make this a clean break and to let bygones be bygones."
Such diplomacy! You'd almost have no idea how deliriously thrilled Westport is to see America's Pube — ahem, Pub — packing its bags, or know how bitter America's Pub is about being run out of an entertainment district in which it has generated high, steady revenues for 18 years. What's really going on?
As anyone with even a peripheral knowledge of the dynamics in Westport can tell you, sometime around the beginning of this millennium, America's Pub began attracting an African-American crowd that gradually earned a reputation for unruly, sometimes violent, behavior. Some lowlights: In July 2007, gunshots were fired outside the club, injuring two. And in September 2009, a brawl erupted outside America's Pub; a police officer on routine duty estimated that 50 people were fighting, and women inside the club were throwing bottles and drinks at each other.