The Inside Scoop on Kansas City Restaurant Closings and Openings

Before the pandemic, Kansas City restaurants had fairly long lifespans. Gojo’s Japanese Steakhouse opened in 1978. Gas Light Grill opened in 1985. And Kansas City’s restaurant darling Bluestem opened in 2004. Kansas City restaurant closings weren’t news.

Sadly, restaurant closings are news now. Gojo’s, Gas Light Grill, and Bluestem shut their doors for good during the pandemic. The restaurant industry is still working out challenges, creating additional closures for our city that loves to eat.

restaurant closings over the kansas city skyline

Kansas City Restaurant Closings and Openings

Here is a list of all the restaurant openings and closings in Kansas City. I started the list in January of 2020 and plan to keep it going.

Please let me know if I missed one of your favorites in the comments below. With the count at 58 closings and 34 openings, Kansas City restaurants are losing the battle against restaurant closures. However, hope is still alive for the entrepreneurs who serve as the heartbeat of KC. So while we pour one out for the bars and restaurants that have closed, we also gladly celebrate the new beginnings.

Closings and Openings From January 2020 to Present:

CLOSINGSCLOSINGS IIOPENINGS
54th Street Grill & Bar (Grandview)Ruby Jean’s Juicery Bamboo Penny’s
Avenues Bistro (Brookside) Ruby Tuesday’s (NKC) Black Pantry
BeignetShio Ramen Shop Blackhole Bakery
Black Dirt Smokey’s Blu Hwy
Black Seed Smokin Joe Bar-B-Q Blue Agave Tequila Mexican
Blue KoiSobahnBuck Tui
Blue Stem Kansas City Songbird Café Cliff’s Taphouse
Brady’s Public House Stagecoach Tavern Cookies & Creamery
Brazilian Churrascaria Porto Do Sul t.Loft El Marvi Seafood and Grill
BRGR TapcadeElevate Bar & Grill
C. Frogs BBQ Steak Whiskey The Bite Fountain City Winery
Californo’s The Clubhouse Experience Hawaiian Bros Island Grill
Flying Saucer The Corner Restaurant HITIDES Coffee
Fred P. Otts The Oliver Hook and Reel
Freshwater (Fine) Dining The Rieger KC Mac N’ Go
Gaslight Grill The Sundry KC Thai
Gojo Japenese Steakhouse Urban Table King G
Gordon Biersch Brewery Webster House La Fuente Mexican Street Food
HogsheadPho Kim KCMeat Mitch Barbecue
HopcatMessenger Coffee (Plaza)
Houlihan’s (Fairway) Ocean Prime Restaurant
Howard’s Grocery Café & Catering Pantry Goods
Ignite Wood Fire Grill Poi-O Mexican BBQ
Kaldi’s Coffeehouse Providence Pizzeria
KarbonRiver Bluff Brewing
KC Pinoy Snooze an AM Eatery
Louie’s Wine Dive (Waldo) Strip’s Chicken
Lucky Brew Grille Taco Naco
MilanoThe Exchange
Myers Motel Bar The Golden Scoop
Nara The Stilwell (Lowes Hotel)
Nick and Jake’s (Plaza) Third Street Social
Oh! Café Tora Zushi (Strang Hall)
Ollie’s Local West Bottoms Whiskey
Oregano & Thyme
Our Daily Nada
Papa Keno’s (Westport)
Plaza III Steakhouse
Rheinland Restaurant

Restaurant Woes

While restaurant closings in Kansas City were once rare, in a blink, that changed. Gatherings were shut down because of the coronavirus. We were sent home without supper. We didn’t know how good we had it, and now we’re crying in our milk over our favorite restaurants that have closed for good.

In shock, we opened and closed our refrigerator and pantry doors. Stared inside at the empty shelves wondering what to make and how to cook again.

We deserved the wake-up call. We forgot that food was essential, but restaurants were not.

Sobering Times

No more walking into restaurants without reservations, without getting dressed up, without giving up our tables for hours at a time. We were ungrateful asses who saw the $900 billion restaurant industry as a right, not a privilege.

No more five-course, five-star meals out. No more asking for your check to be split six ways or discounted. No more tiramisu for you. You don’t deserve it. Nor did you deserve to dine in castles, train stations, museums, lofts, and restaurant-rich shopping districts like the Country Club Plaza and Power Light District that claims, “Any moment. Any mood. Any reason.” Not anymore.

Back in the day, each restaurant closing was followed by at least three restaurant openings. As the 32nd largest city in the United States, we didn’t deserve that many restaurants.

Our Fav KC Restaurants Close for Good

By the first quarter of 2020, Kansas City had 20 restaurants per capita (over 10,000 residents). The average metro restaurant per capita is 17. Phoenix, Tucson, and Memphis have about 14 restaurants per capita. Milwaukee comes in at 15 per capita.

Fred P.Ott's

And while it’s easy to blame 2020, problems persist in 2021 and showed predictive signs in 2019.

In 2019, restaurants were already thinning out. Fred P. Otts, Black Dirt, Westport’s Californos, Hogshead, Milano Italian Restaurant, The Oliver, Krokstrom, The Sundry, and Ruby Tuesday all closed.

The tears you may have shed over those closings are just a warm-up for the tears you’ll shed when the projected 75% of our taken-for-granted restaurants can’t or won’t continue to serve us delicious bites.

The Webster House, Plaza III, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, and Nick and Jake’s (downtown location) have already called it quits. Bravo and Brio are likely to close as well because of FoodFirst Global Restaurant Group’s bankruptcy filing.

Coffee Shops Are Closing Too aka Caffeine Withdrawal

Coffee shops are hurting, too. Our Daily Nada and Blip Coffee Roasters permanently closed in March. Kansas City, apparently, didn’t need a gourmet coffee shop on every block. Thankfully, we still have some of the best coffee shops a city could hope for.

Craft beer sales are also down 40% since Covid-19 started spreading.  Fill up your growlers because brewery closings will be next.

Sure, we’ve tried to hang onto normalcy by ordering takeout and giving restaurants shout-outs on Instagram. Those were band-aids. The restaurant industry is hemorrhaging.

Pull out your cookbooks and pin your takeout menus by the phone charger. You’re going to be dialing more than chewing. And swallowing regrets of not tipping bigger, being kinder, and more supportive of the restaurants we had when we had ‘em? That’s coming too.

They say what goes down must come up. The only food staple that’s way up is yeast sales – up 601% compared to last year. People are kneading their own bread and binge baking even though we can’t live by bread alone.

We need to smell pizza coming out of Il Lazzarone’s wood-fired ovens; hear Michael Garrozzo’s husky voice advertising his iconic spidini on KCUR; see Chef Michael Smith sit down with patrons at Extra Virgin; feel the crystal champagne glasses at Bluestem, or taste a marbled Kansas City strip served at Stock Hill in the West Bottoms.

Too bad. Kansas City didn’t deserve all the grub and glory it offered, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.

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Sources: Feast Magazine, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Business Journal, and Kansas City Magazine.

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