Cityscape

You now have only days to eat at Houston’s restaurant on the Plaza before it closes

Houston’s, at 4640 Wornall Road, will close Tuesday after 30 years on the Plaza. The restaurant’s owners say they are on the lookout for a new area location.
Houston’s, at 4640 Wornall Road, will close Tuesday after 30 years on the Plaza. The restaurant’s owners say they are on the lookout for a new area location. jsmith@kcstar.com

Houston’s restaurant on the Country Club Plaza has moved up its closing date to Tuesday.

On Jan. 18, officials with Hillstone Restaurant Group, owners of Houston’s restaurants, issued a statement confirming a March 31 closing.

The company confirmed Thursday that it was closing two months early, but it did not explain why. Employees said they found out shortly before the restaurant opened Wednesday morning.

Previously, the company issued a statement: “Despite good faith efforts on both sides, an agreement to extend our tenancy at the Plaza could not be reached with the Lessor. Details surrounding infrastructure improvements that sought to temporarily close the restaurant proved to be insurmountable.”

The improvements might be referring to the still-pending lawsuit Buca Restaurants Inc. filed last year against Highwoods Properties, former owners of the Plaza. According to Buca, Highwoods was “aware of, and disclosed” a water leak from the tenant above, Houston’s, and was obligated to make Houston’s install a new waterproofing membrane and tile in its kitchen area and make other repairs to drain lines.

Buca said it has had water leaks from Houston’s since 2002, and during a mid-2013 test and inspection it found “significant mold caused by the water leaks” throughout its ceiling, flooring and drywall, requiring extensive repair work and loss of business during the repairs. Buca said it sent notice of repair costs and expenses to Highwoods and Hillstone, and the damage was in excess of $100,000.

Highwoods filed a response Jan. 19 saying it no longer owns the property but to the “extent Hillstone was damaged, those damages were caused in part or substantially by Hillstone’s own action/inaction or negligence of its employees, agents, representatives or those that they hired, retained or employed.”

Houston’s first entered the market with an Overland Park location in late 1984 and added the Plaza location in 1987.

After the closing was announced, fans praised the restaurant on its Facebook page: “You are our absolute favorite for all our special occasions and our just because occasions”; “It’s like a piece of the Plaza is leaving!”; and “I am so heartbroken about this!! This has been ‘our place’ for my husband and I for the last 25 years. Please please please stay in Kansas City....begging at this point.”

Some also criticized the landlord: “Shame on the Plaza for its greed and insensitivity to its customers.”

In a statement, Plaza officials said: “Houston's ownership was not willing to close for a few weeks for us to make necessary renovations to the restaurant’s kitchen, bar and bathrooms to prevent leakage from impacting the downstairs neighbor. The Plaza did not have any influence on the selection of the closing date. We, like many in the community, are saddened by Houston's departure.”

Hillstone said it will be on the lookout for a new area location, and customers offered suggestions: Liberty, the former Tilted Kilt in Overland Park, south Johnson County, Prairie Village, Waldo, West Plaza, and “Please don’t go too far away from Brookside.”

Joyce Smith: 816-234-4692, @JoyceKC

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