KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An hour after the doors opened Saturday afternoon, faces new and old entered the doors of Kelly’s Westport Inn.
Regular customers, those who used to be among the regulars and others just wanting a good time all crowded into the historic bar.
The landmark business in Kansas City's Westport Entertainment District celebrated 75 years of business Saturday.
“Honestly, my adrenaline has been pumping so much it’s been really hard to sleep,” co-owner Kyle Kelly said. “Today is the culmination of our family’s history.”
Kelly’s claims its corner building is the oldest in Kansas City.
Originally a grocery store and a slew of other businesses, the bar is the longest-running business in the historic building.
“We feel very fortunate," Kelly said. "I guess we were doing things right to be able to withstand the challenges. COVID wasn’t our first one, but certainly our strongest challenge. It means a lot. I guess it means we’ve done some things right."
Customers traded stories of the good times shared over the years in the neighborhood fixture.
John Pratt and John Scott have occupied a pair of stools close to the front windows of Kelly’s for 50 years.
The duo said they’ve rubbed shoulders with some celebrities over the years.
“When Andre the Giant walked in here at 7 feet, 4 inches tall, 380 lbs or whatever he weighed," Scott said. "He walked in that door and just closed out the light. Stood over here and everybody was awestruck by his presence at the bar.”
The bar continues to attract a variety of customers, including those with celebrity connections.
“Thursday afternoon I met the Charger’s quarterback’s dad in here, Mr. Herbert,” said Kelly. “He came in because somebody in the hotel said, ‘go to Kelly’s for a bloody mary,’ and we had a great chat. Stuff like that is pretty special.”
There are tales of love found in a crowded bar are written into the walls.
Tom and Jody Wilkins, married 23 years, had their first date at Kelly’s.
Jody Wilkins' family wasn't happy with the location of the first date, but that never bothered Jody.
The couple celebrates each anniversary with a trip to the bar.
“We wouldn’t have missed it,” said Jody Wilkins as she toasted to the bar's 75 years in business.
Kelly said the bar, and subsequently the party planning, is now primarily in the hands of his children. Their ownership marks the third generation of Kelly’s.
“I kind of show up and do as I’m told, which is a great place to be in my career,” Kelly joked. “St. Patrick’s Day is a big day for us. That happens every year. This only happens once.”
The plans for a 100th anniversary extravaganza have already started.
The family placed a time capsule at the entrance to the bar to be opened in 2047.