January 20, 2014

Money troubles close swagger; wine shop planned in Crestwood

Swagger, which been featured on the Food Network's “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” closed Sunday night. Its landlord recently lost a rent and possession lawsuit. But founder Derek Boone is meeting with local investors who may reopen the restaurant and bar. Meanwhile, Ryan Sciara, co-founder of Cellar Rat Wine Merchants, is opening a new wine shop in the Crestwood Shops.

Swagger Fine Spirits Food — a Waldo favorite that has been on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” — closed Sunday night.

Earlier this month, co-founder Derek Boone lost a rent and possession lawsuit for the restaurant and bar at 8431 Wornall Road, as well as for his Irezumi Body Art business at 8441 Wornall Road.

He owes his landlord more than $20,000 and owes more than $50,000 in back taxes. However, Boone said he was meeting Monday with local investors who may reopen Swagger.

Boone traces his financial troubles to an Irezumi Body Art shop he planned to open in downtown Kansas City’s Power Light District.

District officials said he walked out on his lease before the tattoo shop even opened, and they filed suit for breach of contract in June 2011.

Boone contended that district officials decided they didn’t want a tattoo shop and “kicked him out.” But Boone lost the lawsuit in late October with a judgment against him for nearly a million dollars.

Paragraph 2602 in the lease requires “payment of liquidated damages in the amount three times the rent due each month when tenant fails to conduct business operations during minimum store hours for more than three consecutive business days. It does measurable damage to the district when a storefront goes dark.”

The judgment includes liquidated damages of $580,619, unpaid rent of $195,661, late fees of $185,233 and interest of $30,619.

Officials with the Cordish Cos., developers of the Power Light District, declined to comment.

Boone said he built his businesses without ever taking out a loan.

“I’m a simple man, a simple man. I’m 42 years old, and everything I have worked for is gone, including my son’s college fund and my wife’s wedding ring,” he said. “I spent so much money fighting the Cordish Companies. It finally caught up with me.”

The Kansas City Health Department temporarily closed Swagger in September for “excessive roach activity.” It was re-inspected and quickly reopened. It had no critical violations during its most recent inspection in December.

Wine shop in Crestwood

Nearly six months ago, Ryan Sciara left Cellar Rat Wine Merchants, a shop he co-founded in the Crossroads Arts District in 2006.

He has spent the months as a stay-at-home dad with his daughters Lola and Luca while also working on a new wine shop idea.

First it was a deal that would have put him in the front room of Aixois restaurant in the Crestwood Shops. That deal fell through when the space couldn’t be converted into a separate business.

Then a wine importer offered Sciara a job as regional manager covering 14 states. While he was out celebrating the offer over lunch with his wife, Sciara got a call from a Crestwood leasing agent offering him a space, just a 3½-minute walk from his home.

After listing the pros and cons of the two career choices, Sciara decided on his own shop.

“If I didn’t do it, I would have been walking by this space every day wondering what could have been,” he said. “I’m just enamored of these shotgun stores. They have a great feel. You’ll be surrounded by wine.”

Underdog Wine Co. is scheduled to open in March at 319 E. 55th St., specializing in wine from “underdog” vineyards.

“Not the everyday wines you see in grocery stores, chain stores. Smaller productions,” he said.

The shop, which will be open daily, also will offer craft beers and spirits, and perhaps gourmet salts and chocolates.

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