KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bluestem will close its doors after 17 years in business at 900 Westport Rd.
Owners Colby and Megan Garrelts made the announcement via a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon.
Bluestem’s last day of service will be Saturday, Dec. 19.
The Garrelts said while “Bluestem has always been an extension of our home,” closing their first restaurant will give them more time to focus on their family.
The Garrelts told 41 Action News they have been considering closing down Bluestem for about a year, as their lease came to an end this year. They said the many challenges of the pandemic confirmed the decision.
"It hurts our hearts to make this decision," Colby Garrelts said, "but, you know, at the end of the day, you have to make good decisions in business, especially the restaurant business."
The couple hoped to keep Bluestem open through the end of the year with New Year's Eve as their last day of service, but they felt it didn't make much sense to do so considering current capacity and closing time restrictions in the city.
"What is generally a long night of much celebration is going to be a very short evening in the restaurant business," Megan Garrelts said.
The couple supports the decisions elected officials have made in response to rising COVID-19 cases.
"We understand everything that our local governments are doing and respect that, but it’s hard," Colby Garrelts said.
Megan Garrelts said the two feel for their close friends in the restaurant industry who might have to make similar decisions.
"All of our colleagues are feeling this," Megan Garrelts said. "It’s a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty."
After 17 years in business, Colby Garrelts said he hopes the restaurant made an impact.
Longtime regular customer Joya Cleveland is proof it did.
"Immediately my heart was saddened because I've been a customer here for about 10 and a half years," Cleveland said. "I love all the people who have worked here throughout the years, the food, the creativity of what they do here, the atmosphere."
As the Garrelts prepare to say goodbye, they feel proud of the business they've built and the connections they've made in the community.
"We are very grateful for the years and for the community," Megan Garrelts said.
They want to encourage community members to continue to support local businesses.
"When you do choose to dine out choose local," Megan Garrelts said. "Find your favorite restaurants and keep them going with support."
They also plan to focus more on their Rye restaurants in Leawood and on the Country Club Plaza, and potential new projects.
“Our most cherished memories will forever be the relationships we’ve made through Bluestem - with our staff, past and present; our guests; and our local community, Kansas City,” the Garrelts wrote.
The Garrelts, through Bluestem, have been nominated for and won several awards.
Those interested can book a reservation for Bluestem's final days online.
They were guests on 41 Action News’ Chew Diligence podcast in 2019. Listen below.