By Kevin Collison
The Dubliner, one of the Power & Light District’s most prominent, locally-based tenants, closed Thursday after operating 10 years as, its co-owner lamented, the most “beautiful Irish pub in the Midwest.
“I hope it remains an Irish pub,” Ryan Haverty said. “We all felt very lucky and honored to be able to be the tenant of such a beautiful space.”
The Dubliner took over the business that originally opened as Raglan Road in 2007 across Grand from the then Sprint Center. That operator brought over wood craftsmen from Dublin to recreate the atmosphere of an Irish pub, spending several million dollars in the process.
Haverty said he and his partners wanted to remain there, but couldn’t reach a new deal to extend their stay with the Cordish Cos., the Baltimore-based owner of the Power & Light District. Their 10-year lease expired March 31.
“We’ve been negotiating with them to try to get an extension,” he said. “Like all negotiations, it went back and forth, typical stuff.
“They had a stance on what they were looking for and we had something we thought was feasible. It didn’t quite line up.”
Officials from Cordish could not be reached for comment.
Harverty was seated at one of the high-top tables in the grand hall section of the Dubllner that opens out to the KC Live courtyard. Nearby, in the cozy pub space off 14th Street, workers were boxing up liquor and equipment to move out.
“I speak for a lot of business owners that you have to look at what makes sense with your head and not your heart,” he said. “It was difficult with my Irish heritage because we inherited a beautiful space.”
The Dubliner’s closing creates a big gap–9,800 square-feet–at the Power & Light District.
It joins businesses including the Flying Saucer, Drunken Fish, Famous Dave’s and the Garment District that have closed and remain empty. A prominent storefront at the northwest corner of 14th and Main has never been leased.
The Power & Light District recently signed Blue Sushi Sake Grill to take over the former Bar Louie space at 14th and Walnut, B&B Theatres recently reopened the Mainstreet Theater and the Sinkers Lounge expects to open soon at 53 W. 13th St.
Its local management also went through a shakeup recently when Nick Benjamin, abruptly left after managing the District since 2009, two years after it opened. John Moncke, a former executive at Sporting KC, is now president of the Power & Light District.
The Power & Light District has never performed financially as well as was projected when the city awarded the development rights to an approximately eight-block area of the South Loop to Cordish in 2004.
The original redevelopment plan called for the $295 million in bonds issued by the city to build the district and its infrastructure to be repaid by the new tax revenues generated by the development.
The city however, was required to step in and cover any shortfalls under the terms of the agreement. The entertainment district has required those city subsidies throughout its life.
Over the past several years, they have ranged from $14 million to $17 million annually, according to officials. That figure was expected to drop to $9 million annually after the bonds were refinanced and extended last year. They had been scheduled to be retired in 2033.
Haverty said the furnishings built by the Irish woodworkers will remain in place and hoped whoever operates the place next will continue its tradition.
“You can’t go to another part of town and recreate this,” he said, “it would cost millions of dollars.”
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