By Kevin Collison
A new piano bar has risen from the ashes of the former Davey’s Uptown at 34th and Main, and while it’s more upscale, its owners hope it still will be a comfortable place for all kinds of people to enjoy live music.
“We’re trying to cater to a more sophisticated crowd, not any certain age or demographic, but people who like nicer things in a comfortable environment whether they’re in a tux or T-shirt and shorts, ” said co-owner Alan Stribling.
The new Uptown Lounge at 3400 Main is having its public debut this week after a couple of soft opening evenings, one of which set the tone for what its owners hope to achieve regularly.
Some of the cast in town for the revival of the Broadway musical “Titanic” at Crown Center stopped by and sang along with pianist Michael Rorah, another co-owner.
It’s that kind of serendipity that’s anticipated for the Uptown Lounge, which seats 60 people including a row of seats in front of the piano. There’s also parking behind the building shared with Swanky! Interior Design.
Stribling, a Kansas City native, met Rorah, a native of Boonville, while living in San Diego in 1992. Rorah was a musician, Stribling was a computer consultant.
“He taught me music and I taught him about computer graphics,” Stribling said.
After meeting his future wife, Jean, while performing on an Alaska cruise ship in 1997, the couple decided to relocate to Kansas City. She’s a co-owner and social media director for the Uptown Lounge.
Stribling played piano and sang at the Raphael Hotel lounge for 10 years and later the Plaza III steak house lounge. In the meantime, Rohar was performing in clubs either solo or in bands in Southern California.
An entrepreneur as well as a musician, Stribling also worked in real estate, helped bring the Yogurtini franchise to Kansas City, was a project manager in construction and also dabbled in commercial real estate.
About two years ago, he met Pam Hoelzel, the owner of the building where Davey’s Uptown Rambler’s Club had been located before a fire ruined the popular music joint in March 2020.
Stribling had been looking for a place to open his own piano bar, and liked the location.
“I knew I wanted to be between the River Market and Waldo,” he said. “This place had wonderful neighborhood demographics and was halfway between downtown and the Plaza.”
He struck a deal with Hoelzel to work as project manager for the rebuild of the fire-damaged space in return for a break on the rent.
“It was in shambles, a burnt out disaster,” he said. “It took six months just working on the building itself.”
Rorah designed the interior, an elegant place with a contemporary bar, comfortable seating and old French advertising posters on the wall.
Now that it’s open, Stribling promised a musical feast from “Gaga to Gershwin” to entertain customers and create that kind of sophisticated, big city atmosphere where piano bars thrive.
“I think there’s a need for a place like this,” he said. “One thing that also attracted us was the capacity for growth here because of the streetcar.
“We wanted to create something unique you can’t find anywhere else in Kansas City.
The Uptown Lounge is open Tuesday through Saturdays from 5 p.m. to close. The entertainment occurs nightly from 8 p.m. until midnight. A grand opening is planned for the weekend of July 8.
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