Bartenders often daydream about opening their own place, and that dream’s now coming true for Mark Church, Brock Schulte and Kenny Cohrs. All are fixtures in Kansas City’s craft bar scene, and they’re now putting their collective talents into The Monarch Cocktail Bar & Lounge.
“This is an opportunity for us all to work together on a concept we have complete passion for and believe is needed in the city,” says Cohrs, who is currently lead bartender at Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar but will oversee staff and hospitality as The Monarch’s service manager when it opens this summer.
Church will be the bar’s general manager, while Schulte will be bar manager and direct cocktail development. They’re also part owners in the project, which is spearheaded by David Manica, president and owner of Manica Architecture and the bar’s majority stakeholder.
Manica’s overseeing the buildout at 4808 Roanoke Parkway, on the ground floor of the same building housing the Polsinelli law firm. Everything, from the custom butterfly chandelier to the fireplace and a rectangular, white marble-topped bar — perhaps especially the bar — is meant to improve the guest’s experience. Unlike most bars, it will be completely open, with no shelving, mirrors or other vertical elements to block the view or keep bartenders and guests from connecting.
“We’re making the bar the focus and putting the cocktails and the bartender in the center,” Church says. “All our equipment, tools, the backup stock liquor — everything’s down below so there’s a clean look.”
A behind-the-scenes service bar will fill orders for the lounge and patio. A cocktail cart will deliver certain drinks tableside, a feature reminiscent of the martini cart at The Connaught Hotel Bar in London.
Indeed, The Monarch’s team draws much of its inspiration from such internationally acclaimed bars, many of which Manica’s visited over the years. When I asked about The Connaught, the bartenders quickly chimed in to name others, including The Bar at Hôtel Costes in Paris, Hotel de Russie’s Stravinskij Bar in Rome, London’s Dandelyan and Nightjar, and a string of spots in New York, Chicago and elsewhere.
Church, Cohrs and Schulte want to deliver that same level of experience while providing the hospitality and welcome Kansas City’s famous for.
“We will still have that Kansas City feel from the service aspect while executing our product at the highest level we can,” Church says.
As for the drinks themselves? A finished menu is still some time off, and Schulte would only say this about what to expect:
“The drinks will be modern and technique-driven, with very intrinsic thought behind every detail,” he says. Quality spirits, hand-crafted ingredients, ice, glassware, garnish — The Monarch’s approach will incorporate every drink element.
“It will be a fully sensory experience,” Cohrs adds.
This isn’t the first collaboration between the three. Cohrs, Church and Schulte are partners in Liquid Minded Concepts, a beverage events and consulting business they own with Brandon Cummins. Cummins is also consulting on The Monarch, but his job as director of marketing and education for spirits distributor Altamar Brands precludes his taking ownership in the bar.
Liquid Minded Concepts formed in 2014 and has since become known for serving drinks at events like Boulevardia (at a rate of 450 cocktails an hour in 2016) and the Kansas City Irish Fest. The company will continue those operations after The Monarch opens, the partners say.
They certainly bring plenty of experience to the job. Schulte honed his skills at the M&S Grill and Manifesto; he also helped overhaul The Drum Room in Providence New American Kitchen. Most recently, he managed The Rieger’s bar. Schulte last year won the Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival’s bartending competition, has been a Diageo World Class U.S. regional finalist and two-time national finalist in Bombay Sapphire’s Most Inspired Bartender Competition.
Church has worked in almost every aspect of the restaurant and bar industry over the last 15 years and was a bartender at Grünauer until leaving to help launch Liquid Minded Concepts. Church has served on the board of the Kansas City chapter of the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild, won the 2010 Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition, topped other contests and garnered national media attention.
Cohrs has also made a career in hospitality, and he worked at Manifesto, Cafe Trio, Louie’s Wine Dive and Bar Rosso at Hotel Sorella before joining the Jax team. He also bartends at the Pendergast Club located above the Majestic Steakhouse and has captured his share of bartending competition accolades.
They’ll bring all that experience to bear at The Monarch.
“We’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time,” says Church.
Anne Brockhoff is a freelance spirits and cocktail columnist. To reach her, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.