If you've been around 16th Street and Grand lately, you've probably noticed a new sign on the building that used to be Late Night Theatre.
Painted above the door in striking red letters: Czar Bar.
Rumor has had it for a while that the joint would be Kansas City's hottest new rock bar. That's because the place is the pet project of two longtime scene stalwarts — Tony Davis and Anodyne Records owner John Hulston.
"It's hard to imagine not doing music here," Davis says as he shows me around.
A dark-wood, custom-made bar lines one whole side of the room. A big vaultlike door on the back wall leads to Davis' office and a new kitchen.
Except for the sound-amplifying marble on the walls, the room is right for a rock show. An intimate show — the bar's capacity is just 85.
Davis points to the area on the floor around the as yet unbuilt stage. "With the platform, there's only about a 6-foot corridor for bodies," he says. "But you never know what you can accomplish with a small space." Especially when you have connections.
Davis' experience as a promoter goes back 20 years. Hulston's involvement provides easy access to Anodyne's network. They've also hired Billy Smith, whose booking helped put the Record Bar on the map. "I'm pretty sure we're going to be able to book it strong and pull off some surprises," Davis says.
Czar Bar opens officially this week. But the first bands won't christen the new stage until September 6 as part of the Crossroads Music Fest.
And after that, don't expect concerts every night. "We want to be really picky about it," Davis says.
Most nights, Czar Bar will just be a rockin' hangout with a great jukebox, stocked from the bar owners' collections. "We'll have good music but not blow everybody away with being too hipster," Davis says.
His contribution: Hank Williams, baby.