Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Beer in the Bottoms? Let's Bulldoze the Power & Light District!

Last night, while researching my next homebrew recipe, I came upon a spot of amazingly cool news. In 2009, Kansas City will have another brewery opening up, this time in the West Bottoms. Dead Canary Brewing is a woman-owned and run new brewery, setting up in the West Bottoms down off 12th Street, among the haunted houses and great old brick buildings.

Folks, this could be amazing.

They are setting up Beer Pong and Dodgeball Leagues. They are creating a taproom. They are committed to brewing practices that are green and sustainable. They got started on this journey by brewing naked.

Most importantly, they are creating "high content, high flavor, knock you on yo ass beers." Beers like Cat House Stout - (Dry hopped mint chocolate imperial stout), Local No. 12 - (lemongrass maple strong ale), Speakeasy IPA - (honeysuckle grapefruit IPA), Bathtub Barleywine - (copiously hopped barleywine), and Chickory Rhubarb Imperial Porter.

This could do more for the West Bottoms than any TIF Project ever brewed up in a closed-door meeting between Kay Barnes and Mephistopheles. Really - the West Bottoms could become the new Crossroads X 20, with lots of inexpensive great old buildings around, acres of parking, and reasonable access to the highways.

But, since Wayne Cauthen and the prior City Council have gambled our city's future on the Power & Light District, which is already turning out to be a bit of a flop, I have a radical idea. Let's bulldoze the Power & Light District, and refuse to give any more of our tax dollars to Cordish and their cronies. (Yes, of course they will sue, but it will take years for them to recover anything, and a sensible jury might just rule in our favor if we can introduce evidence of all their broken promises and their racist dress codes.)

Now that we have freed ourselves of the millions upon millions of obligations to out-of-state developers, we can bring in some topsoil and put in the world's most awesome beer garden in all the paved expanse that currently exists down there. Let's be ambitious - let's create something that will make Munich's Oktoberfest seem like an unpopular fraternity's weekend kegger. (We can even, as a nod to our prior mayor, put in a rain garden, just to show we're not angry anymore.)

Then, we take a few million dollars and give them to our local brewers to create the micro-breweries of their dreams on the periphery of our new beer garden. Relocate Boulevard's and its emblematic smokestack downtown. Get 75th Street Brewery to open up a 12th Street Brewery. In a cross-state gesture of goodwill to make up for our outright theft of the 1985 World Series, offer Schlafly a space.

But don't forget the beginners, either! The Kauffman Foundation wants to support entrepreneurship - let them funnel a few million dollars to help ambitious homebrewers make the leap into micro-brewing. And, because cans are so much more recyclable and cheaper to ship than bottles, let the city open up a municipal cannery, offering access to its canning lines for each of the breweries on a cooperative basis - a green infrastructure project that ought to attract funding from every level of government.

As I think we demonstrated at 75th Street Brewery on Monday night, real beer is a big draw. People will come out for something unusual, and they appreciate a good party. Imagine if Kansas City was the undisputed Home of Great Beer. We would have to hire thugs to control the hoards of convention planners! Vacationers would come in year round, just to try the seasonal brews! Hotels chains would pony up their own money to get access to the crowds of tipsy beer-lovers walking around downtown.

Most importantly, it would be awesome.

My point in this flight of fancy is that for the millions of dollars we have blown on a cookie-cutter assemblage of national chain restaurants, we could have had something unique and truly attractive to Kansas Citians and conventions if only we had focused on local businesses and local flavor. This is the sort of impulse that Mayor Funkhouser has pushed with his New Tools initiative. Economic Development does not have to mean sending massive amounts of money to out-of-state developers for massive projects. Let's hope that the Council gets behind the concept and that we see some real Kansas City economic development.

In the meantime, let's raise a toast to Dead Canary Brewing. They might accomplish with beer what politicians have failed to accomplish with hot air and taxpayer dollars.

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15 Comments:

Blogger Keith Sader said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/31/2008 9:30 AM  
Blogger Keith Sader said...

Dan you miss the point of the P&Blight. The point of P&B is the Douchebag abatement program that was secretly installed by those cronies you're castigating.

Since the Power & Flight district opened, douchebaggery has declined by a huge amount in older, funner entertainment districts.

I believe when the Douchebag event-horizon is reached the P&L will self-destruct ridding KC of two lingering problems.

12/31/2008 9:31 AM  
Blogger les said...

Well go for it. If there's something that can't be fixed with good beer,it's prolly not worth fixin'.

12/31/2008 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Nuke said...

I cant wait for the new brewery to get on it's feet, sounds like a cool venture.

I would like to live in your fantasy beer world, but I wish we had some good choices out here on the Eastern edge. Little Munich is fine and all, but I don't wanna have a half hour drive home after a good night out.

Unfortunately for every one of us that likes good beer, there are half a dozen kids that think beer= pitchers of weak but cold Lite (or Bud or Coors). I wonder what the saturation point is for the local beer market.

Oh, and while I'm here have a Happy NYE!

12/31/2008 10:23 AM  
Blogger the front porch: said...

I agree we may reach a saturation point in KC's local beer market, but I would be fine with River Market Brewery's demise in order to make room for an exciting new brewery such as Dead Canary. I don't want to count my chicks before they're hatched, but I would wager that a honeysuckle grapefruit IPA could dance circles around River Market Red.

12/31/2008 11:22 AM  
Blogger the front porch: said...

Partial retraction: I don't want to see another river market business close. I just want the brewery down there to make better beer. And food. And have better service. That's all I'm saying.

12/31/2008 11:23 AM  
Blogger JustCara said...

Dammit, Dan - I think you're onto something. I'm not a beer fan, but damned if it wouldn't be awesome to turn the bottoms into that kind of destination with LOCAL businesses instead of the crap chain places in the P&L. And if they could get it zoned to allow open containers and smoking (like God intended) they'd have to beat people away.

12/31/2008 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Dan's Neighbor said...

Picked up your copy of The Pitch yet Dan?

12/31/2008 3:25 PM  
Anonymous DKC said...

I am soooooo there.... love the WB.....

12/31/2008 7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan whatever your last name is, you're on to something here. True economic development means promoting unique, locally-owned businesses - whether it involves beer or something else. I wouldn't patronize the Power and Light District if it were the last place on earth. I'm Joe the Journalist, and I like leaks if you know what I mean.

12/31/2008 11:30 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Dan.

Dan, Dan, Dan.

Why do you have to have things so black and white? I'd never defend the P&L district, I always have been about local places.

But nobody wins if the P&L district fails.

The P&L District is not the enemy.

The west bottoms is a great place to start more local businesses (although 100% of the businesses there today are local, btw).

It doesn't have to be a zero sum game? The P&L district should thrive and the west bottoms can too, and both should be able to grow without destroying each other.

No one gains if the P&L district fails, regardless of what you think. We need a vibrant downtown, and a cool west bottoms.

1/01/2009 9:44 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I agree entirely, Mainstream, and that's why I described my dream of a downtown beer garden as a flight of fancy. It would be cool if Barnes and Cauthen hadn't been seduced by Cordish's, but they were, and they got a gullible city council to go along with them. Now we're stuck with the district, and our financial survival hinges on somehow digging our way out of the hole they placed us in.

1/02/2009 6:15 AM  
Blogger rdbrown27 said...

I am so glad to hear about this place opening in the bottoms.

An establishment that shall remain nameless down in the bottoms has recently attracted a lot of people to that area that, like me, who have probably never gone down there. I think it is a perfect spot for the anti-P&L.

Everything the P&L got so wrong, the bottoms could get right. Convince real KC restaurants to open a location down there - where would you rather go, freaking Famous Dave's or LC's West? - get some bars going.

I know this is a pipe dream, but if this brewery is sucessful, who knows?

1/02/2009 11:13 AM  
OpenID Eric Rogers said...

I am a full-fledged booster of the Power & White District. Keith is exactly right. P&L has sucked up 90% of the local striped shirt and tanorexic crowd from Westport. It's almost a real neighborhood again. If the businesses in Westport are smart, they will turn the P&L into the best thing to ever happen to Westport.

It's time for Westport to stop whining and start reinventing itself as the cooler and more local alternative to the mega-mess 3 miles north of them.

1/03/2009 9:24 AM  
Blogger New Hoboken said...

We love the notion of a beer garden, but we want one right here, in New Hoboken. Nothing to bulldoze and plenty of gardens already in process. Plus, in a pinch, from here you can walk to the museum sloshed and enjoy some of that fine art while you get your drive back on.

1/07/2009 8:57 PM  

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