Yesterday, the Peach Tree Restaurant announced that come January, it is going to shut down its sole food and live Jazz Restaurant in the 18th and Vine District, and reopen in March in the new Power and Light District.
This is a good news, horrible news event.
First, the good news. The good news is that many of the restaurants that are going to be filling up the new downtown entertainment district are national chains. Even in Kansas City, the home of fabulous barbeque restaurants and steak places, the Power & Light District is going to feature national chains filling those niches with Famous Dave's BBQ and Ted's Montana Grill. The Peach Tree is going to join Chef's Burger as just a couple of the P&L Restaurants that will be locally owned. It will be great for the city, and great for visitors of the area to have local flavor that will make the P&L unique to KC. And for the Cordish Company, I applaud them for attracting these two local chefs. My biggest hope for the Peach Tree is that the new location doesn't take away its charm that came from having such a diverse crowd of old and young, black and white, that it had in the 18th & Vine area.
The downside is that this is horrible news for the 18th & Vine area. Over the past decade, a lot of progress has been made to bring the 18th & Vine area back to life. The area has a rich reputation with the black community in Kansas City. It was the home of many Jazz legends, including Count Basie and Charlie Parker. A decade ago, some people had a vision to bring the area back to life. They built a fabulous jazz museum, and the Negro League Baseball museum that now has national standing. They revived the Gem Theater, which houses many great national Jazz acts throughout the year. A great annual event, Rhythm & Ribs festival brings thousands to the area each year.
They've built and remodeled several apartments in the area for people to live. And the area has attracted a couple of great restaurants -- the Peach Tree and the Red Vine -- to join nearby Arthur Bryants for great dining. All of this surrounded the Blue Room, which continues to house great live music from our fabulous local jazz musicians 5 nights a week. About 2 years ago, the Red Vine closed down. Smaller crowds in the still-growing area and the fabulous Cajun Cuisine weren't enough to overcome the high rends and it closed down. Now, the Peachtree has left for greener pastures as well. The promise of the opening of Harpers never seems to come.
The 18th & Vine area is one of my favorite areas in Kansas City, and is a cultural treasure that we need to preserve and grow. Losing yet another great restaurant in the area will be pretty devastating. My hope is that the building owners in the area can figure out a way to attract a couple of new restaurants soon -- at lower rents, or rents that are based on a percent of sales -- to help the area grow back to prominence. It's too important of an area to let go.