Westport streets could become patio cafes during pandemic — Mayor Q supports road closure plan

Westport Neighborhood
Kelly's Westport Inn sits at the corner of Westport and Pennsylvania, streets that would be closed this summer if a new pandemic recovery plan is approved /Photo by Katie Currid

“Paris of the Plains,” could be an even more apt nickname for Kansas City if the mayor and local business leaders have their way

Kansas City is looking to close streets in Westport to traffic this summer as a way of combating the coronavirus pandemic, Kansas City magazine has learned.

A plan proposed by the Westport Regional Business League calls for the closure of Westport Road and Pennsylvania Avenue in the historic neighborhood, home to the oldest building in the city.

Bars and restaurants would be allowed to extend their patios across the sidewalk and into the street in front of their business. This would allow the establishments, most in charming but cramped older buildings, to follow the city’s 10-10-10 rule while remaining profitable. The occupancy rules for each spot would include their street patio space, and the novelty of sipping a cocktail on the street would notably be a draw for many.

Mayor Quinton Lucas is a fan of the plan.

“I would love to make Westport more of a pedestrian plaza, including but not limited to shutting down Westport Road and Pennsylvania for two blocks on both ends of the intersection,” Lucas told Kansas City. “This provides us a moment to see what that would look like. It’s a time when we need spacing anyway. Let those restaurants operate like you would see in Europe, get more table space out there, particularly in the warm weather months, so we don’t have just a farce of a six-foot distance requirement, which we would have if we don’t do things like this, but an actual six-foot limit.”

The proposal, which Westport businesses would like to see in place before the city reopens on May 15, would help “the many local small businesses that have seen their livelihoods evaporate during this public health crisis,” wrote Franklin D. Kimbrough, Executive Director of the Westport Regional Business League, in an email explaining the plan to local officials.

Kimbrough, who declined to speak about the proposal more until he’d consulted other stakeholders, had pushed the city to waive fees normally associated with the street closures. The proposal was worded in such a way that it would be applicable to restaurant-heavy streets citywide, not just in Westport.

“The small businesses of Kansas City want to slow the spread of the Coronavirus as much as anyone else,” he wrote in the email. “This proposal achieves both objectives at no additional costs to the city.”