(Editor’s note: This article originally was published Jan. 31, 2023)
By Kevin Collison
The former Rendezvous bar in the historic Muehlebach Hotel, a luxurious watering hole where Truman Capote once worked on “In Cold Blood” and bygone businessmen talked deals over whiskeys and cigars, is reopening soon as the Voo Lounge.
The old bar at 1214 Baltimore has been largely dormant since 1983, but thanks to the new Downtown Marriott ownership its been restored to the grandeur it radiated when the landmark hotel opened in 1915.
“We wanted it to be a nod and acknowledgement to the history of the building,” said Derek McCann, managing director of the Marriott.
“We wanted to keep the rich mahogany and the warm feeling you get from an older building.”
The Rendezvous and its later iteration, The Haberdashery, was the place for men to gather at the Muehlebach, Kansas City’s grandest hotel when it opened more than a century ago. Meanwhile, the ladies took their refreshment in the hotel tea room.
The likes of Harry Truman, Tom Pendergast and H.R. Bartle once frequented the place and Capote reportedly scribbled drafts in a corner booth of his famous 1966 non-fiction novel about the murders of the Clutter family in western Kansas.
But in the early 1980s, when the Vista hotel, now the Marriott, was built and incorporated part of the old Muehlebach, the room went dark except for an occasional event.
McCann said when the new owners, the McWane family of Alabama and HighLine Hospitality, bought the Marriott in 2021, they quickly became intrigued with the old Muehlebach bar and adjoining historic lobby.
“They asked us what we could do, and we decided to reopen as a bar and to reinvent the outlet and bring it back to life,” he said.
Most of the chairs and tables are new but blend with the art deco design room. The bar itself remains intact along with the original terrazzo floor and railings. The only significant change was removing three, non-load bearing columns to improve its sight lines.
The Voo Lounge will reopen Feb. 10 as a classic piano bar with Will O’Keefe performing every evening. The concept calls for it to be an interactive experience for patrons to enjoy the music and perhaps sing along.
“We want to open a venue that’s not boring and locals will want to come to,” McCann said.
The bar will offer unique cocktails prepared by mixologists formerly with the Westport Cafe, Jacob Beckloff and T.J. Bailey. Light bites including flatbreads, charcuterie, dips and desserts also will be served.
And as a nod to the past, there are 32 liquor lockers where guests can keep their favorite spirits or whatever else they want. They’ll be numbered after famous years in local history, or the owner can supply their own.
Hours will be from 6 p.m. to midnight, Thursday through Sunday.
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