By Kevin Collison
One of downtown Kansas City’s best-known landmarks, the Savoy Grill, reopened last week with the historic furnishings of the original bar intact and a contemporary makeover to the adjoining dining room.
“It was a design challenge, taking a beloved space and updating it for contemporary use,” said Molly Swyers, chief brand officer for 21c Museum Hotel, the new owner and operator of the landmark hotel at 219 W. Ninth St.
Guests to the restaurant enter through the historic lounge and bar and then turn the corner into the dining area. There’s a private dining room for 32 and the main dining area seats 125.
The entire bar and restaurant has been rebranded simply as The Savoy.
The old Savoy Grill area, a 1903 addition, remains the same as most people will remember, minus the dining tables that once occupied the terrazzo center floor.
They’ve been replaced by couches and cushioned chairs more suitable for its primary new purpose as a cocktail lounge.
The dark oak woodwork of the old booths and the bar itself have been lovingly restored as has the Old West murals depicting scenes from the Santa Fe Trail painted by Edward Holslag.
The original stained glass windows face Ninth Street and the scarab designs, painted for good luck are above the bar.
On a whimsical note, the lounge area has a few old barber chairs scattered about. There’s also a newly-commissioned mixed-media sculpture by Brad Kahlhamer, “Supercatcher Vast Array” located at the south side of the lounge.
The main dining room, which was remodeled extensively in the mid-20th Century, has been recast as a combination of old and new. New lighting floats beneath the old pressed tin ceiling, and new walls were installed to display the artwork which will be changed out every six months to a year.
Some stained glass windows that were not original to the building were removed from the dining room, but the historic Arts and Crafts transom windows remain.
The redevelopment of the property, which is on the National Historic Register, was guided by Deborah Berke Partners of New York and Hufft Projects of Kansas City.
“We wanted to pay homage to the old Savoy, but the restaurant will be a different experience,” Swyers said.
Joe West is the executive chef. His Kansas City experience includes the former 40 Sardines, Bluestem and Stock Hill.
Louisville-based 21c Museum Hotels is known for featuring contemporary art in their properties and the debut of its first show will be a group exhibition called Refuge. It’s scheduled to open July 17.
According to a press release, Refuge features 54 artists, including JR, Richard Mosse, Nick Cave, Hew Locke, Yoan Capote, Stephanie Syjuco, and Mohau Modisakeng.
Their works will explore the tenacity and vulnerability of the human spirit in current conditions through multi-media works.
The 120-room hotel, which opened in 1888, is expected to begin receiving overnight guests July 18.
Dining room hours are Mondays through Thursdays, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sundays, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Bar hours are Sundays through Thursdays, 5 p.m. to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Don’t miss any downtown news, sign up for our weekly CityScene KC email review here.