KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Starting this weekend, those who plan to visit the heart of Westport will have to go through a metal detector on Friday and Saturday nights.
The entertainment district, emerging from its own year of isolation, is bringing back the extra layer of security as counties loosen COVID-19 restrictions and begin a return to normalcy.
"There's so many people down here having a good time, and that COVID is over everybody has been coming out more often," Montana Serrioz, who visits Westport, said.
One business owner, Brett Allred, told 41 Action News his five bars are busier now than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Everything has come back to normal," he said in a phone interview. "The struggle we're facing now is hiring staff, but we feel really grateful that's our problem we're dealing with."
However, more people visiting Westport means security issues can pop up.
Less than two weeks ago, KCPD arrested a man who pulled out a gun in the middle of a fight at Mill Street and Westport Road.
"Just like other parts of the metro in the United States, you know, every area is looking at how best to deal with crime," Stacey McBride, a spokesperson for the Westport Regional Business League said, "and Westport is no different, especially being as popular as it is."
The entertainment district is bringing back its plan of shutting down a 10-block area to traffic every Friday and Saturday night to put up metal detectors and keep weapons out.
"The crowds really don't start coming until after 11," McBride said. "So they feel very comfortable that when the problem starts, is when the crowd starts.".
Five checkpoints around the pedestrian-only zone keep patrons flowing into the bars and nightclubs.
"Of course, you know, with the popularity of the district, if more gates are needed, they're committed to adding that so that that doesn't delay you," McBride said.
The program was created in 2018 to keep visitors safe, and district leaders believe it's been a success so far.
"I just don't think they knew it would get this out of hand," Serrioz said. "I feel like people kind of thought of this place as a fun place to go and have a good time with your friends, not a place to watch violence. They kind of used this place as a safe place, but people have taken it too far."
The checkpoints begin at 11 p.m. and run through 3 a.m. and are expected to remain in place during the weekends at least through October.