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KC Live! Reopening Soon; P&L District Pandemic Losses Total ‘Tens of Millions’

Emphasis on Outdoor Seating, Social Distance

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Above image credit: The Power & Light District closed 14th Street last Friday to provide outdoor seating for the Bristol and Dubliner. (Courtesy | David Johnson)

The Kansas City Live! block is returning to life next week after being dormant since mid-March, but with a more low-key vibe compared to the raucous times of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl run earlier this year.

For the time being, the canopied space at the heart of the Power & Light District will become an open dining room rather than a home for crowds, and acoustic live music will substitute for loud rock and country.

“We are developing plans for other forms of live music as we get further into the summer, but it’s too early to say exactly what, when and where,” Nick Benjamin, Power & Light executive director, said in an email.

“We’ll be working closely with the city to develop the best possible plans to safely bring as much entertainment as we can back to downtown as soon as possible.”

Economically, Benjamin added it’s been a “challenging three months” for the P&L District because of the COVID-19 crisis.

“As you know, prior to the closing, the Big 12 tournament was canceled,” he said.

“That has traditionally been our most significant four-day stretch of the year from a sales perspective. The losses since March are in the tens of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs, unfortunately.

“It will take a long time to recover.”

The Kansas City Live! Block will be a quieter place for the time being than it was in early February during the Chiefs' Super Bowl run.
The Kansas City Live! Block will be a quieter place for the time being than it was in early February during the Chiefs’ Super Bowl run. (Courtesy | Hannah McClain)

Those losses will likely require the city to increase its cash subsidy to the district, which has been averaging about $15 million annually. No estimate was available for the anticipated additional shortfall.

Benjamin said the P&L District never completely shut down because of the pandemic. It had 10 restaurants and Cosentino’s Market remain open for curbside, delivery and carryout service. But the KC Live! Block closed on St. Patrick’s Day.

The district has been working with the city to provide opportunities for its restaurants and bars to begin a hoped-for return to prosperity.

Last Friday, a two-block section of 14th Street was closed to traffic from Main to Grand to provide additional outdoor seating for the Bristol and Dubliner. The PNC Plaza also was opened with socially distanced seating.

Next Wednesday, June 3, the KC Live! space will become a similar seating opportunity for Guy’s Dive and McFadden’s.

Tables for KC Live! restaurant and bar patrons will occupy the space for now, rather than crowds of revelers.
Tables for KC Live! restaurant and bar patrons will occupy the space for now, rather than crowds of revelers. (Kevin Collison | CityScene KC)

“We are excited to see our tenants start to get back to creating the fun outdoor environments that have been the hallmark of the district since our opening, albeit now in a socially distanced and slightly different way,” Benjamin said.

It will require significant time, however, before the Power & Light District and other downtown businesses will be able to return to pre-COVID activity.

“We built something solid that will survive and thrive again, but at the moment there are a number of foundational building blocks, from conventions to concerts to sporting events to office occupancy, that are either diminished or temporarily infeasible,” Benjamin said.

“It’s going to take a renewed effort and similar broad cooperation amongst a diverse group of partners to make it back to where we were at the start of 2020.”

Status of Power & Light District businesses:

Restaurants that opened May 15 for in-venue dining:

Bristol Seafood+Steak+Social
Chipotle
County Road Ice House
Dubliner
Protein House
Whopper Bar
Yard House

Restaurants open for carryout / curbside pick up:

Chipotle
Drunken Fish Sushi Restaurant & Lounge
Insomnia Cookies
Johnny’s Tavern
Meshuggah Bagels
Protein House

Current tenants open:

Cosentino’s, Rally House

Additional tenant openings during the past few days:

Polished Nail Salon
Posh KC
Johnny’s Tavern
Bare Med Spa
Blade + Timber

Anticipated to open later this summer:

The Garment District

Flatland contributor Kevin Collison is founder and publisher of CityScene KC, an online source for downtown news and issues.

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