Archive for Friday, May 5, 2006

Abe & Jake’s is city’s burden

Bar receives more police calls than others in area

May 5, 2006


It is the type of news every landlord dreads hearing: There's been trouble at one of your properties.

When the trouble involves a fight that leads to six arrests and four people being sent to the hospital for treatment, it becomes a real headache.

Lawrence residents, do you have a headache yet?

Such a fight is what happened at Abe & Jake's Landing, a downtown night spot at 8 E. Sixth St. And in essence, every Lawrence resident is the landlord for the nightclub, which is in a historic former barbed-wire factory building just east of City Hall.

The city of Lawrence owns the old building along the Kansas River, and city commissioners lease it to Mike Elwell, an owner of Abe & Jake's Landing, who worked for 10 years to restore the building at his cost.

Thus far, city commissioners are being understanding landlords. The late April fight was the most recent of several assault incidents that landed the bar in the news. And the Lawrence Police Department reported that it responded to calls at the bar more than at several other large downtown nightclubs.

"We have had conversations with bar owners and other people in the past about problems that arise from time to time. It may be time for us to have one of those conversations with Abe & Jake's," City Commissioner Sue Hack said. "This one may land a little harder on our plates because we are the landlord."

Members of the Free State High School prom court leave a Thursday afternoon pre-prom meeting at Abe & Jake's Landing. Several incidents in recent years at the bar have made news, which is a concern for Lawrence officials because the building is owned by the city and leased to Mike Elwell.

Members of the Free State High School prom court leave a Thursday afternoon pre-prom meeting at Abe & Jake's Landing. Several incidents in recent years at the bar have made news, which is a concern for Lawrence officials because the building is owned by the city and leased to Mike Elwell.

Elwell said he would have no problem discussing the bar's operations with city leaders.

"If they have a suggestion they would like to make to me, I would sure listen to them," Elwell said.

Taking steps

But Elwell said he believed he was taking appropriate measures to create a safe environment. He said that when the bar is open and isn't being rented by a particular group, he has taken the unique step of requiring patrons to show that they're students at one of the area universities.

"I'm not saying college students won't get in a fight," Elwell said. "They sure will. But we think they're less likely to bring a gun with them to solve their differences.

"Nobody wants trouble to go on in their business establishment. We're the same way."

As for the late April melee - which a police spokeswoman said resulted in 10 separate fights that sent more than 200 people into the parking lot - Elwell said it was difficult to predict that particular crowd was going to cause problems. The event was part of a Kansas Relays celebration that Elwell had hosted without problems in the past.

"Nobody knows what happened exactly," Elwell said of the fight. "That's the truth. I know we had 12 to 14 security people there, and they had a hard time handling what broke out."

Police activity

City commissioners, though, said the amount of time police officers are at the establishment is as much of a concern as any one event.

The Journal-World asked the police department to generate a report detailing how many police calls had occurred at Abe & Jake's compared with several other large and prominent downtown night clubs. In 2005, there were 135 police calls at Abe & Jake's, the report said. That was higher than at the Last Call, 729 N.H., with 115; the Granada, 1020 N.H., with 80; and the Bottleneck, 737 N.H., with 26.

Through April of this year, Abe & Jake's also had call levels well above the other establishments. The bar had 63 calls during the time period, compared with 34 each at both the Last Call and the Granada.

The bar has made news with several incidents in the last couple of years. Those include:

¢ KU basketball player Rodrick Stewart in August was hit over the head with a bottle as he was leaving the bar. Reportedly, several fights had broken out inside the bar during the evening.

¢ In September 2004, KU football player Greg Heaggans was assaulted while at the night spot.

¢ In March 2004, an 18-year old Topeka man was arrested on suspicion of pulling a handgun on another man in a fight just outside the bar.

"We need to have a meeting with Mr. Elwell and find out what is going on," City Commissioner David Schauner said. "We need to find out why we're having so many calls. We need to find out why it is happening and how to bring it in line."

Hack agreed that the number of calls was a concern.

"Those calls are an expense the community bears," Hack said. "Every time a police officer is at that location, it means they can't be elsewhere."

Elwell said he was surprised that the police had recorded 135 calls to his business. He said some of the calls that were attributed to his location actually may be in response to incidents in the large city parking lot adjacent to the building. He said not all of the users of that lot were patrons of his business.

Lease details

Because of its unique role as the landlord, the city can more easily force Abe & Jake's to change its operations than it can other bars. As part of the 1999 agreement with Elwell - which charges him $4,800 per year, or $400 per month, for parking, and has renewals that could allow it to run into 2087 - there is a specific clause that gives the city the right to order, with "good cause," that Abe & Jake's stop the sale or consumption of alcohol at a time earlier than other licensed establishments in the city.

Thus far, city commissioners aren't contemplating invoking that clause of the lease.

"The numbers I saw do give me a little bit of concern," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said. "But I guess I'm not interested in imposing any additional restrictions at this point. But we have to keep an eye on the situation."

Several city commissioners said if new regulations are needed, they probably should look at them for the city's entire bar industry.

"Is there a reason, for example, to believe that we should require bar operators to have more on-site security? I don't know," Schauner said. "I don't think we're ever going to solve the problem, but I think we should explore putting better measures in place to ensure that there are less opportunities for actions to get out of hand."

Commissioners said they have not forgotten how out-of-hand some situations have gotten in downtown. In February, a shooting outside the Granada left one man dead and another injured.

"I know we are a college town, but we owe it to the residents of our community to make sure they feel safe in our downtown," Hack said. "If that requires some additional security requirements or a change in hours, we need to have that discussion. I know we definitely don't want to wait until the next tragedy."


lunacydetector 12 years ago

holy crap! he's only paying $400.00 a month and just for parking? okay, so he spent 10 years paying to fix it up, but no wonder - for $400.00 a month i would've done something similar. what a SWEET deal! that's cheaper than most apartments and that thing is HUGE! i'm sure the city went through the usual process and advertised that building for rent and took bids from prospective tenants - don't you think? i'm guessing it must've been in the microprint section of the paper...and it lasts until 2087, i think i'm going to puke.

i still think the commission was a tad bit on the sensitive side with the whole advertising blitz in topeka, but who would know who the trouble makers are other than the bar owner?

i want the city to be in business with more things, the eagle bend golf course (money loser), the M-T Bus line (money loser), and now this place bringing in so much money.

i wonder if the city has other properties available at such a wonderfully cheap rent? PLEASE reporter, do a follow-up article on this question of mine. it would be fair for EVERYONE to know.

jhawkrawk 12 years ago

I would like to make an offer.

Let me lease the old factory for $400 a month, and I guarantee no trouble from my patrons. In fact, I won't even serve alcohol.

Better yet, I will give free meals to City Commissioners. ;-)

I will not only run a clean establishment, but I also promise to host events that will better the community, and strengthen downtown.

How about it, Mr. Mayor?

Kelly Powell 12 years ago

Why are the drinks so damm pricey then?

Jay Bird 12 years ago

jhawkrawk-That's not 400 for the building, it's for the use of the parking lot. Rent on the building itself are probably though the nose. .

Godot 12 years ago

Well, what is the rent on the building, then? Inquiring minds would like to know.

quigley 12 years ago

So I guess there is no point in inviting some of your freinds from out of town to come up to lawrence and go out with you to Abe and Jakes. Since they are going to be hassled about where they go to college. Give me a break Elwell, when Is he going to come up with an idea that actually makes sense?

bigreed 12 years ago

This is sloppy journalism, even for the Journal-World.

"In 2005, there were 135 police calls at Abe & Jake's, the report said. That was higher than at the Last Call, 729 N.H., with 115; the Granada, 1020 N.H., with 80; and the Bottleneck, 737 N.H., with 26."

What you fail to mention (intentionally???) is that Abe and Jake's capacity is 3-4 times the capacity of any of those establishments.

In fact, I would venture to say that the capacity of Abe and Jakes is more than twice all the other venues COMBINED. Logically, if Abe and Jakes were only average it would have hundreds more calls. It seems the Abe and Jake's crew is better behaved than the average Lawrence night spot.

This is EXACTLY the kind of journalism that has most Americans longing to the days where they could trust their newspapers to NOT HAVE AN AGENDA.

Who is the Journal-World owned by? Who owns the Riverfront mall next door (that competes for city parking bids)? Who would benefit most from Abe and Jakes closing? Who would be first in line to buy the building and turn it into a restaraunt for his hotel patrons next door? Yep, all the answers are the same.

This is beyond sloppy journalism. This is agenda-driven journalism. Everyone involved in this article that holds a journalism degree should have their degree revoked.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years ago

Let us not forget that this deal was made while chambocrats controlled the city commission.

bigreed 12 years ago

For the sake of opacity:

Who owns the riverfront mall?

Who owns the Journal-World?

Think about THAT and re-read the article. I feel dirty just thinking about the corruption of journalistic integrity that is the Lawrence Journal-World.

Hurry and think about it, before the editors delete the facts.

bugmenot 12 years ago

The $400 is the total rent paid. He pays it just for parking, and doesn't have to pay any other rent. He also doesn't have to pay property tax because he doesn't own the building. It's a ridiculous deal. Why wasn't that building put to better use?

Did anyone else find it absurd that he requires all patrons to show i.d. from a local university? Isn't that discriminatory?

BJ 12 years ago

WOW! The City Commissioners think that the police is called too often, and measures must be taken? Where were you folks when the Homeless "WET" Shelter was discussed and it was presented that they have actually 3 times as many police calls as Abe and Jake's. You refused to do anything about that, but you want to put ordinances in place for all bars, even the ones that never have a problem? The citizens of Lawrence are also the Landlord for the Homeless Shelter since they get our tax dollars as well.

You folks are really starting to piss me off!

BJ 12 years ago

Oh yes, I forgot, you want people to feel safe downtown? Get rid of the bums on the street that do not want to be a productive member of society. Most people are scared of them and not bar patrons. Get your priorities straight for ones. UNBELIEVABLE!

lamb 12 years ago

Isn't Elwell the same one who was able to buy some property dirt cheap next to the recreation center he purchased? He sure does have 'connections.' I guess it is the old saying of "the rich get richer."

horselover 12 years ago

Must be all those Topeka people causing all the problems. Oh, wait they are not allowed in Abe & Jakes. What a joke!!!

mefirst 12 years ago

This story is so tired, but I can't help but wonder why KU athletes seem to be involved in the altercations. Beer and big egos...a volatile combination.

Godot 12 years ago

Wildgen was the city manager that recommended the sweetheart $400 per month lease (at minimum, 1/20 of the going rate) and the sweetheart sale of 1 acre of commercial land for $27,000 to Elwell.

And why in the world is the city in the business of giving away prime downtown space for use as a bar? Could this have anything to do with Elwell allowing the bar to the used for Democrat rallies? Does he charge for that?

Something really stinks here. Phil Kline, where are you when we need you?

betti81 12 years ago

This is definitely a slanted article. and it is rediculous that this man pays $400.00 in "rent" (if that really is true or if the reporter just 'forgot' to put in all the facts). It is assinine to punish all the other bar owners who CAN control their patrons. A & J's is a really neat venue, but it has turned into something scary. it is not well designed for security folks with the upper and lower levels, crowded staircase, places to "hide" to fight. What a nightmare. I think Ewell should have to (and want to) hire PROFESSIONAL security folks/firm to help him. "Bouncers" aka ex-high school football players with a chip on their shoulders in this town do not help and are rarely properly trained. he wants a about that!

glockenspiel 12 years ago

Apparantly none of you had been to abe and jakes before it was remodeled. It was not "Prime" real estate. Don't you remember the city trying to find some use for the Riverfront mall? Abe and Jake's building was a dump. I watched them work in that building for the 2 years I worked near that building. We thought it was nuts to put that much money into a dump.

Look at the place. Ewell invested a ton of money in that place. I would imagine 100K+. Furthermore, he invested in a facility that he doesn't even own. He also took a gigantic risk. Who would have thought this venture would be sucessful. The guy took a dump and turned it into a gem. Let him reap the rewards and quit complaining about the rent.

Chris Tackett 12 years ago

Godot, you're jumping to some odd conclusions with the politics.

Elwell originally bought the warehouse to use as a warehouse. He collects large pieces of art, many of which are on display in the venue now (the giant frog, the blue arches, the huge wooden fish, the bronze jayhawk, alligator, concrete sheep etc.)

It was only later that he decided to turn it into a bar.

I'm still not certain the $400 isn't just for the parking lot space (the 10-12 spots he has on the far west corner of the upperdeck). No one has provided a source for the full-rental agreement.

The journalist here needed to do a lot more digging before publishing this piece.

redfred 12 years ago

No one has bothered to mentioned how many dollars Elwell has spent fixing up the old factory. If he hadn't taken the risk it would probably still be sitting empty.

Godot 12 years ago

Glock, that is what commercial tenants do. They lease a building and, at their own expense, remodel it. Then they pay rent, and taxes and insurance. In downtown Lawrence, the location is the draw, not the building. If $100,000 is all Elwell spent, then he still got a sweet deal. That is only a little more than one year's rent (if he were paying the going rate) for the building the way it stands now. And he still doesn't have to pay property tax.

I wonder if his option to lease the building until 2087 includes a provision that would allow him to sublease? If so, he could really clean up. After all, I can't imagine that he intended to operate that business for 90 years when he made the deal.

Tiamak 12 years ago

Most of you people that made a comment have been to Abe & Jakes and had a great time. If you go down to the police department or city hall, where you get the records on the police calls then you will see that not all of the call were associated with the actually crowd inside.

Here is the catch, I ran Langston night club, which is now Liquids we had record police calls, but the most of the were for people that was parked in McDonalds parking lot illegally, not for the activity inside the club. The same holds true with Abe & Jakes. Also higher so called professional security is a joke, you would fill more safe will some clown walking around in military fatigues with a gun strapped to his side that well trained bar staff.

I agree with a previous comment made you don't need ex-high school jocks with a grudge on their shoulders being security. If you train your bar staff your wait staff and your bouncers and have an on the site manager then you can run a successful club. Mr. Elwell has to take the proper steps to assure that he doesn't have future problems.

Here is the simple fact Abe & Jakes is in a college town, you have a wide range of people that are going to go to his place, it doesn't matter if you are 18 or 35 common sense will tell you to act responsible. That is one course they should teach at all universities.

Jamesaust 12 years ago

  1. The solution for the "outliers" lies in the notion that their business operation is at the sufferance of the City. Give them a warning that clearly spells out what is objectionable, give them a reasonable timeline to resolve the matter, give them a specified standard by which they will be judged, and then judge them. If they fail, they close. Its not the City's job to establish daily law-and-order but rather the offending business.

  2. Is this lease for A&J secret? If not, why has LJW not published it online so we can review it ourselves?

  3. Re the picture in this article - what in the ehtch-ee-double-ell are high school kids meeting at A&J at any time or for any purpose? If the tobacco companies were "sponsoring" underage activities, the feds would be all over them.

i_have_only_valid_opinions 12 years ago

Elwell may be laughing right now, but he won't be laughing when his butt gets sued once someone gets very seriously injured at A&J's. Shoot, I'm sure even one of his so called "security" folks would turn around and sue if they were ever hurt while providing their less-than-adequate services.

And let's not even talk about the fact that he is letting all of the underage college kids in that shouldn't be there anyways. How does a student get in that is underage, with a fake ID (not even their real name), if they are actually checking to see if they are going to an area college? The name on the school ID doesn't even match the name on the fake ID!!! Is this how qualified and smart these security personnel are!?! If they can't even tell that "Susan" is only "Susan" while being a student at KU, and then is "Lynsey" while she drives, are they really alert enough to watch for the beginnings of a brawl in their bar?

Also, does anyone know who Elwell's other business partners are?

Adrienne Sanders 12 years ago

[quote]Several city commissioners said if new regulations are needed, they probably should look at them for the city's entire bar industry.[/quote]

This is just part of the city commissioners agenda to shut down all bars and music venues downtown... they didn't succeed with the smoking ban, so now they're on a mission to convince everyone that bars are still making downtown dangerous, even without secondhand smoke.

Personally, i think downtown is the most likeable thing about Lawrence. I wish they'd stop trying to kill it.

jafs 12 years ago

Something is definitely wrong with this picture. If it is true that he only pays $400/month rent, that is absurd! The city should either sell property it doesn't make any money on or charge a reasonable rent for it. I also agree that requiring patrons to be college students sounds illegal to me - aren't there laws preventing this sort of discrimination? Especially since the city owns the building - it's not even private property! Having said that, I also think Lawrence needs to get serious about preventing crime at bars - I would suggest a city-wide closing time of 12 midnight. I believe that would cut way down on crime, both in bars and in the neighboring parking lots.

jafs 12 years ago

Of course, if the city uses its' property for things like community centers which benefit the entire city, that also seems allright to me. But a bar wouldn't fit that description!

glockenspiel 12 years ago

Let me get this right then....

According to most of the people on this board, you can rent a pile of crap for 400/month, fix it up, and when you are done, your landlord can thank you buy raising your rent, or taking it from you an sell it for profit.

Bottom line is, when the Elwell took over the property, it was about 400 a month. That is what he should pay unless the city supplemented the improvements, which it appears thay have not.

Sigmund 12 years ago

So as a citizen of Lawrence, I'm a landlord to a bar? Gee, who knew? Well now that I own the joint as soon as the lease expires I think I'll lease it to the city for $1, if they will promise to put the new library there. Now where is that I copy of the lease, it must be around here somewhere ....

BTW, bigreed's comments are right on, bozo is still riding the "short bus", and don't forget it's Cinco De Mayo. It marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla. But seriously, who hasn't kicked the French around sometime in history?

jafs 12 years ago

Glockenspiel, I understand your point. However, in a capitalist system, landlords can in fact sell their property or raise the rent unless there are long-term leases in place. I think it was a serious mistake in judgement if the city entered into a long-term lease (80+ yrs). It is up to a renter whether to improve the property or not (whether commercial or residential), knowing that those improvements will ultimately belong to the property owner. Sounds like a sweet deal for Abe+Jake's to me - I'll bet they've already made back a large percentage, if not all, of their investment. Bars make a huge profit on alcohol sales. The city, on the other hand, is stuck with a ridiculously low rental income, no property taxes, and the low probability that anyone would want to buy that building under these circumstances.

coldsplice 12 years ago

i worked for Elwell when he bought that thing. I worked to fix the place up and make a bunch of the sculpture that's in there back when it was nothing more than a shell and I have a couple of thoughts. #1, you all have made some assumptions about his intent with the building which are neither accurate nor important now. While not going into too many details, financially he let it ride when he bought that place-big time. We all raised our eyebrows at the amount of money and time it was going to get this thing going. Getting it was one thing but to have it re-wired up to code alone was well into the 6 figures (over a decade ago). To the extent that this is the basis of capitalism-he wins. Further, if the city made him the sweetheart deal with no provision for an ongoing review, they lose-it's not his fault (and i'm a leftly liberal on stuff like this)

Ultimately, if he, the city, and the residents of the city are smart at all they will get with the program and figure out how to keep this stuff from happening in the future (and i'm guessing none of the solutions have anything to do with ID's or Topeka). If not, the bar will close, he'll be broke, the barbed wire factory will be empty again, and we'll all wring our hands wondering how something so good, went so bad.

betti81 12 years ago

just a side note...when I was underage (not that long ago) I had a fake and Abe and Jake's was one of the hardest places to get in. They scanned IDs, the entrance was well lit, and often they asked for a second form. I did not know any of the door guys, but it definitely had a reputation back then for being difficult to get in if you were under. That said, i went there for a concert 3 days before my 21st, used my real ID and the dork at the door let me in as 21+. I think I have been there once since then, but that was almost 4 years ago.

jafs 12 years ago

Coldsplice, I agree - it's the city's mistake. If he invested six figures a decade ago, I'm sure he's made all of that back and more by now. The mark-up on alcohol sales is immense! I'm not sure why the city would lease city property to a bar in the first place, but if they do, they should make sure that this doesn't happen again. What about the discrimination issue? Is it legal to refuse entrance to non-college-students on city-owned property?

Godot 12 years ago

Well, now I understand why the people at Americana Music thought they could get the Carnegie for free as long as they paid for maintenance - there is precedence in Abe & Jakes.

At least this commission did not repeat the mistake in the Americana situation.

galfromku 12 years ago

That is a great, beautiful building. I wish there was enough call for more mature customers to go there, instead of the younger crowd. There are plenty of places the young kids can party, but not near enough places for older crowds. I find myself going to Topeka or Kansas City to have some sort of night life because nothing is available here in Lawrence. It would be great if it could be a nice restaurant in parts of the smaller rooms, and live music in the main part, or vise versa. Something like Steve Macelli's venue would be great... with perhaps a piano bar, or jazz offered. It just does not pay to be an "old person" in this town. Even though I am 45 and have lived here since birth, this place still caters to the college crowd because that is where the money is I suppose... I just wish there was someplace in Lawrence for the older crowd.. If we could only get a restaurant there, how about an Olive Garden or something.. Ideally though.... I 'd love a club to kick back with a cocktail and socialize with some great tunes.... sigh.... a girl can dream..

Godot 12 years ago

Keep this deal in mind when the city and county ask the taxpayers to fund the purchase of industrial space. Which people of influence will be allowed to use that space for free, as well?

classclown 12 years ago

I don't understand where some of you are going with the amount of police calls based on the number of patrons. Are you saying Abe&Jakes is not as bad as the others based on a per capita rating?

Let's look at it this way... The house down the street from you has two occupants and gets ten police calls in a month. The house next door to you has five occupants and gets fifteen police calls in that same month. That would mean the house down the street has a per capita average of five calls while the neighbors house has a per capita average of three calls.

Does that mean that the house next door to you isn't as problematic as the house down the street? Or would you be more concerned about having cops in front of your house fifteen times that month?

The issue isn't the percentage of troublemakers at any given place, but the total number of times police need to respond to trouble.

YourItalianPrincess 12 years ago

My son's senior prom is tomorrow I do hope there are no problems. They have booted up security and have set rules for all students who decide to go to the prom. Even us parents recieved letters in the mail.

Good Luck Class of 2005, I do hope you things go well and everyone has a fantastic time.

Fatty_McButterpants 12 years ago

I would offer that Elwell does not have a properly trained security staff. He hires a bunch of frat boys for near peanuts and then tells them that they are to check ID's and kick out the troublemakers.

The problems occur when they go to kick out the troublemakers. Most college doormen (not just Elwell's) don't know how to approach someone. They just walk up and say, "You're outta here!". They wait a second or two and then, if the person isn't running for the door, they grab 'em and try to physically remove them. This pisses off the drunk and BOOM - instant fight. Perhaps if they were to offer their staff some training on how to deal with these people properly they wouldn't have so many problems.

esubrett 12 years ago

I personally blame the violence associated with Abe and Jakes on one person. The person commiting the violence. If you are not responsible enough to go to a bar, have a good time, and go home without incident, maybe you (instead of non-college students) should be banned from the bar. But that is coming from a 26 year old male, who wants nothing to do with A & J to begin with. You don't want me at your establishment because I am too old, fine I will go somewhere else.
I agree there needs to be a bar for older individuals to go where they can have a conversation with someone and not wonder in the back of their mind "How old is this person"

glockenspiel 12 years ago


You are right in everything that you say, but you can't raise a lease price or sell a property when someone is leasing it (without legalities). At the time, the place was worth $400 a month. If it was worth more than that, and some other company was willing to pay $500, $600, $1000/month, I'm sure the city would have gone that route, but no other buisnessman was willing to pony up the dough for an EXTREMLY risky investment. It was a high risk high reward and you shoudn't gripe about some one that took a huge risk and hit the jackpot through hard work and serious determination.

Chris Tackett 12 years ago


i was wondering if anyone was going to point that out. i guess going to the prom a year late is the new thing to do?

re: this story, here's my take:

1) this article sucks. it's poorly researched and leaves out too much important information

2) the city needs to review their agreement and make that public

3) the number of police calls is irrelvant when you take into account capacity of the venue

4) the world co. has some conflicts of interest with riverfront and this story needs to make those known to the public when reporting on Abe and Jakes.

5) people need to stop jumping to conclusions, especially when they are sparked by an incomplete article

6) anyone that has a problem or addtional questions needs to direct those to the ljworld editor and the city commission.

enough speculation!

bigreed 12 years ago

Couldn't disagree more, classclown. We're not talking about a static family, but rather a business that is open to the public.

People who get police called on them are a certain segment of the population. If a certain place has 4 times the number of people it would stand to reason that they have 4 times the number of troublemakers.

It is also interesting to note that the writer is including all calls to the A&J parking lot, which is generally full on nights when A&J is not open. Why is that? Because everyone knows that easiest parking for every bar north of 9th street is Abe and Jakes. Bar-goers like to bounce from bar-to-bar, so they park their car at A&J and do so.

Even more damning to this 'reporter' is changing the criteria for his #s. For every other bar he talks about the calls TO THE BAR. For Abe's he talks about calls to the bar and TO THE PARKING LOT. Does Fatso's get pinged in these numbers for calls to 10th and Mass? I doubt it. The reporting in this article is at best lazy and I would suggest (due to the obvious conflict of interest) that it is downright libelous.

You seem like a reasonable person and I trust that with a little deeper thought you'll understand why capacity is a huge part of this conversation.

dream 12 years ago

The real problem lies with Mike Logan who manages both Abe & Jakes and the Granada. Allowing underage people and catering to certain types of people with certain types of music only spells disaster. Most of the blame must be squared to those who manage. Need we say more?

quigley 12 years ago

I totally agree galfromku. It would be a perfect place for a more mature hang out spot. It does suck that when you are out of the age where you want to go to a bar and be next to some 18 yr girl thats puking in a trashcan, you have to go to KC to find it. Elwell could make money with a new format. Drinks would be more expensive, but that would also keep the kids out, and they could have more tables and maybe a live band once in a while instead of a DJ. I like it! Change formats!!!

bigreed 12 years ago

Indeed Pilgrim. I remember reading an article Abe and Jake's opened in this very paper that Ellwell spent over a million dollars on renovation of the building.

Interestingly, that article is no longer in the JW archives, which far predate the article from 2000 that I remember reading. Could it be a technology issue? Perhaps, but when you combine the removal of the GLOWING article that detailed Ellwell's contract (and the 10-year labor of love that resulted in the venue's opening) with the constant damage inflicted on the establishment by this paper and the OBVIOUS contentious business relationship between Mr. Elwell and Mr. Simons (who interestingly runs the journal-world and the mall next door), I would believe it is an issue more sinister.

From what I remember of the article, the contract wasn't that great for him, as he had to run a complete new power over the railroad tracks to the building at his own astronomical cost and install a pricey elevator system to get it open to the public. Combine this with the new bridge run over the tracks, etc.

bigreed 12 years ago

Quigley: That was the format when they opened. In fact there were rumors that you had to be 25 to get in. That never happened, but it did attract the junior/senior level KU students for the first year or two. The problem (presumably) is that the older you get the less often you go out.

Kyle 12 years ago

I read an old article (either LJW or Kansan) that said Ewell put well over $1,000,000 to fix the building up.

Sigmund 12 years ago

Bigreed, might I remind you and the Judge that "junior/senior level KU students" are most generally not 21 years old? Are you saying or implying that Abe & Jakes allows or caters to underage drinking? You want to solve the violent bar problem in Lawrence, try enforcing the State liquor laws.

We all know that is not going to happen, why? All the lost profits to Downtown Lawrence, Inc. and all the lost sales taxes. We, the city of Lawrence, the "landlord" to A&J's (BTW, I'm still looking for my copy of the lease, but surely one of the other landlords here in Lawrence has their copy handy) are just to greedy. There is plenty of hypocrisy on both sides of this issue.

hk45 12 years ago

Maybe the LJ World should get the stats on the number of police calls to the drop-in center and Salvation Army to see if they are higher than any bar. I'm sure this will show where the true problem is downtown and I bet it won't be the drunks at the bar, probably the drunks at the shelters.

bigreed 12 years ago

Junior/Senior level KU students are 21, that's the point. Abe and Jake's, and most (all?) venues in Lawrence, have an 18 to enter, 21 to drink policy.

quigley 12 years ago

Bigreed: I agree that that age probably doesnt go out as much. But what about working 25 to 35 crowd. You could probably get some younger business people that would go on thurs. fri. or sat. Those ages are more likely to pay $4 for a beer instead of two, only making half the people buying necessary. And I think a more mature, safer atmosphere would really complement the place, since so much money was paid to make it look nice. So everyone wins, no fights, and Elwell can charge more for the place for parties/receptions because the place isnt in the news for fights and hurt people all the time.

Quigebo 12 years ago

Jafs, Your response to Coldsplice's comments indicate that you did not read very carefully.

Coldspice wrote: "Getting it was one thing but to have it re-wired up to code alone was well into the 6 figures (over a decade ago)."

Jafs responds: "If he invested six figures a decade ago, I'm sure he's made all of that back and more by now. " Did you miss the fact that Coldspice was talking about re-wiring ALONE.

I don't think that anyone who has commented thusfar has a grasp of the level of funding needed to transform this property into what it is today.

On a separate note, this article displays the level of journalistic quality that one would expect from a high school newspaper, not an "Award Winning" organization like the Journal World. How did this get past the editor?

bigreed 12 years ago

Quigley: I love the idea, but it's failed in Lawrence over and over again. Teller's is really the only place that has successfully done an 'older crowd' after restaraunt hours. Bella Lounge, Abe and Jake's, and to some degree Raoul's have all tried it and failed. In this town, for whatever reason, it is a tough nut to crack.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years ago

"At least this commission did not repeat the mistake in the Americana situation."

They're not going to get any more money from Parks and Rec than they would have with Americana, who unlike Abe and Jake"s, exist solely to provide a public service. Apples and oranges.

That said, Elwell did expend a lot of money and effort to renovate what was a real disaster, so aside from the fights, I don't think it was that bad a deal for the city.

quigley 12 years ago

I guess it will always be a college town. Once your reach a certain age, its either start your family and forget about the bars, or move to KC. I guess thats why so many graduates move away, because you can actually find a job that pays and a nightlife where you can meet people without getting a bottle broken over your head.

galfromku 12 years ago

I miss the Bella Lounge.... It was awesome... it was the first non-smoking bar in Lawrence, if you remember....

daman 12 years ago

I didn't read all of the responses so if I'm repeating others, I apologize. the $400 a month is ALL that he pays. His improvements were in lieu of future rent. No doubt is got and is getting a sweet deal. As a business owner I would have loved to get a deal half that good. Typically, those of us in the same business pay about $2,000 a month per 1,000 foot of space PLUS we still have to pay for all of the improvements just like he did. Not dout he's "wired" in with someone in the city.

Second, the problem is this, he caters to MINORs. Go in there any Friday and Saturday night. There are more underage drinkers in there then there are legal drinkers. Of course there are going to be problems. It's not the Topeka people, or the football players, it the enviornment he has created with the underage drinking. Notice how he doesn't even mention that as a potential problem?

What will the city do about it? Nothing! Lip service at best. Can afford to leave it vacant and they signed a deal that leaves them very few options. So what does the city suggest, imposing restrictions on ALL bars? This city commission, or at least some of them are absoultely insane. Let's see, their tenant is a problem so they'll punish the rest of business owners in town. Why anyone would open a business in this town under this commission is beyond me.

quigley 12 years ago

Hurlehey, I understand, but I have never heard of anyone I know going to any of those places, except for Freestate, I was thinking it would be nice to have Abe and Jakes made into a place that is actually cool.

glockenspiel 12 years ago


As a buisness owner, you could have gotten a deal that good. So could have I. But, you and I weren't dumb enough to invest that amount of capital into a dump. No one would spend $1000 per square foot for an abondoned warehouse in a very crappy location that doesn't meet code.

Taking an existing storefront property and transforming it to meet your needs is way different than taking a crap hole warehouse and transforming it to a state of the art bar and banquet hall. The money a company spends to renovate a store on Mass. st. is chump change compared to the investment to renovate Abe and Jake's.

Rationalanimal 12 years ago

I'm sure Lawrence can survive without one bar that seems to attract rodents from as far away as Topeka and KC. If Abe can't regulate itself so that it isn't attracting rif-raff, then the Commission has a duty to take action, up to shutting it down. No one has an absolute right to maintain a threat to the community, even if you've invested your own money in it. The fact that Abe hasn't been effective heightens the need for the Commish to take action.

DaREEKKU 12 years ago

BJ, In regards to homeless people....did you know that a large majority of them are mentally ill and cannot get health care? Thank the Republican Party and their abominable dedication to healthcare specifically mental health before you tell them to "get a job." Frankly I'm more intimidated by bar people than some homeless woman looking for change.

To the rest: I agree, I myself am IN college and wouldn't be caught dead at Abe and Jakes. I'd like to point out that the Bottleneck had a VERY low amount of incidents compared to the Granada and Abe and Jakes. That's because the crowd at the Bottleneck is completely different. Most of the immature/stupid college students go elsewhere (which is where you find the problems at). It's not people from Topeka.....yes, it's the infamous college student....just bear in mind that not all of us are like that. Those of us who are not, pretty much loath people that cause riots/stupid problems like this.

braden_quinn 12 years ago

The unfortunate truth of bars in Lawrence is that there are not enough "of age" patrons in the area to support the needs of all the bar/clubs in the town. That is the bottom line.

Thusly staff at bars will always fall back on the loophole of having photo scanners of ID's. Video proof that the minor provided the bar false identification and the bar is off the hook. They are not required to be experts in determining what is false and what is legitimate.

Bars will always be required to skate the edge of what is morally right and what is necessary to pay the bills.

Personally I think they should relax alcohol laws in the US. Move the drinking age back to 18 and get rid of "last call". By imposing restrictions all the Government creates is something that is Taboo and last call only fosters drinking and driving problems. "Oh its last call. Let me order shots and another drink".

I've been a bouncer at 3 bars in Lawrence including Abe and Jakes, Granada and Last call. I don't think Abe and Jakes is a problem for the city though they should have adequate security in place to make good patrons feel safe and bad ones in check.

And regarding "student ID's required" thing, it is a standard practice of bars in town to on occasion when the "type" of crowd starts changing to the negative to impose student ID's to get in or cheaper (I've seen $2 entry for students $10 without). Don't anybody jump on the race bandwagon. Thugs come in all colors and creeds. But most of the real problems I've ever seen haven't come from townies but people from Topeka and KC.

Go out in Topeka sometime. People there are not nearly as laid back. Bump into someone at a club here in Lawrence and both people apologize and go about their business. In Topeka and its on: better watch your back cause you just scuffed his sneakers. LAME.

sabretooth 12 years ago

Abe and Jake's is only open as a nightclub Friday and Saturday nights, and outdoes every bar in town in emergency calls. At most, they are open 104 nights a year.

Oh wait, they are closed all summer.

Let's make that 80 nights a year. 135 police calls over 80 business days.

Last Call also only does weekends.

You can't really compare those numbers to a respectable venue like the Granada or Bottleneck, because they are open five to seven days a week.

I know some of the Abe and Jake's security staff, and aside from a couple guys, they are largely untrained midget friends of Nick Reddell, who have NO business as security.

They get two or three guys that know what they are doing, and the rest of the guys just sit there and collect a paycheck.

Even so, you can't blame security for the situation last week. Last week is getting blown WAY out of proportion. It was a barfight. Big f'n deal. 200 people spilled out into the parking lot because THEY CLOSED THE BAR.

You see thirty cop cars in front of the bar and think "OH MY GOD!", until you realize it takes six patrol cars to pull a girl over for a busted taillight in this town.

Lawrence Police can't wipe their @$$ without backup.

YourItalianPrincess 12 years ago

I meant the Class of 2006.......I see where I made the typo in my post. Been a long week, but going to be an awesome weekend. Going camping with the girls for a weekend of single mom time away.

Have a great weekend everyone.

To the Class of 2006..... Be on your best behavior at the prom. I have seen the rules, so you don't want to take a chance of blowing you graduation day by messing up at your prom.

braden_quinn 12 years ago

"Louise's, Replay, harbour Lights, Red Lion, The Pig, Limerance, Taproom, henry's, Sandbar, Ricks, Gaslight, Pool Room and Astros" are all bars and not nightclubs though.

They cater to a totally different crowd. I donno....

I'm almost 28 now but I was served my first beer at the tender age of 18 at Louises or The Replay. I can't remember which was first but I do remember never once needing to use a Fake ID. I just looked old I guess.

lelly 12 years ago

I've read the article and all the posts. Many of us seem to be getting off the main point. Before we can argue the "problems" of Abe & jakes, we must first determine if this article is legitimate journalism. We all know where Simons stands on "his" riverfront mall. We all know the fisticuffs Simons and Elwell have had over parking. Why aren't we more outraged at yet another example of a small town paper using its influence to push others around? It's disgusting. Lawrence, tell Simons to stop it...cancel your subscriptions!

Godot 12 years ago

I have to agree, after reading all the posts and re-reading the article in light of the competitive relationship between Simons and Elwell, that everything about this stinks, particularly the lack of journalistic integrity (oops, that is an oxymoron) demonstrated by the Journal World.

Nachtwolf 12 years ago

Hey, as long it's open tomorrow night for prom, I don't care what they do with it.

sabretooth 12 years ago

"Lawrence residents, do you have a headache yet?"

Seems like objective journalism to me, and definitely NOT soapbox editorializing.

sixtwelvewest 12 years ago

Yes, "Abe and Jake's is city's burden." That's not slanted journalism at all.

I learned in high school not to trust the J-W for "facts."

Godot and everyone, just keep that relationship in mind, and remember that statistics and numbers can be skewed by any media outlet in anyone's favor...

BJ 12 years ago

Posted by DaREEKKU (anonymous) on May 5, 2006 at 1:31 p.m. : BJ, In regards to homeless people....did you know that a large majority of them are mentally ill and cannot get health care? Thank the Republican Party and their abominable dedication to healthcare specifically mental health before you tell them to "get a job." Frankly I'm more intimidated by bar people than some homeless woman looking for change.

Dear DaREEKKU, I'm not telling them to "get a job". Unfortunately a lot of homeless are mentaly ill and do not get the support they should get. My point is that members of the City Commission are telling us that they are "scared of the bar people in our downtown" when most people are scared of the drunk homeless folks. If you allow to have people be drunk of their asses in a city supported shelter, then what in the world are we doing? The staff at the "wet" shelter is even afraid of their own patrons! And I am sick and tired that all of that is allowed in Lawrence where it is "OK" to be yelled at when you don't give a cigartette or a dime to some drunk that then tells you you are a f++king bitch and you should go f++k yourself!

YourItalianPrincess 12 years ago

I and others older now have found a new place. One of the girls has introduced me to the Slowride out in North Lawrence. What a great place to go to may I add. I have been there 3 times so far since the first time and will continue to go.

Live bands, older crowds, very kick back, and a good time. The owners are very nice along with the bartenders and the girls who serve you drinks, and food. I don't feel old going there as I did going to other places where they occupy mainly to the college kids.

BorderRat 12 years ago

Google "Mike Elwell" and you'll see that he petitioned city hall to have his rent reduced. Wish I could do that with my landlord.

bankboy119 12 years ago

"Thank the Republican Party and their abominable dedication to healthcare specifically mental health before you tell them to "get a job." "

Is that what you learned in college? Get into the real world before you start talking politics. They don't just deserve to get treatment. It takes money and it's not my responsibility to pay for mental health for some crazy person. It's not my responsibility to take care of everybody out on the street. It's my responsibility to take care of my family, and if I want to make it my job to take care of crazy people I would. The government isn't responsible for them either. That's the problem with the Democrats. They think the government should take care of everything for everybody. Here's how economics works: Trying to take care of an infinite amount of wants with a limited supply of money. Get an education before you start arguing about what the government should and shouldn't do.

party_boy 12 years ago

Something else to think about. Abe and Jake's is only open for business three days a week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday). So figure in a few closed days for holidays and student breaks and you've got around 150 days a year. With 135 police calls last year alone, that is practically every night they're open!! I wonder how many times the police were called on nights that they weren't open (Elwell's famous "parking lot" calls)?

Don't punish the other responsible nightclubs for the clumsy, incompetent actions of this one!!!!

Elwell, step up. Do what it takes to make your operation safe and peaceful. Take a trip to similarly-sized operations in the big cities (Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas) if you're not sure what to do. You need real, trained security in that place, not $6 an hour college kids.

townie42 12 years ago

bankboy119 said: "Is that what you learned in college? Get into the real world before you start talking politics. They don't just deserve to get treatment. It takes money and it's not my responsibility to pay for mental health for some crazy person. It's not my responsibility to take care of everybody out on the street. It's my responsibility to take care of my family, and if I want to make it my job to take care of crazy people I would. The government isn't responsible for them either."

You're all heart.

That's fine. Don't take responsibility, but I don't want to hear any complaints about them being there. That's where they live. That's how it goes. It's their choice. They have the right to live where they want.

Besides, we shouldn't worry about it anyway. They'll disappear if we pretend they're not there. Who cares how that happens, right?? It's not our responsibility!

adopted 12 years ago

I don't think it is the patrons at Abe and Jake's... I think it is Mike Elwell that is the problem....remember he used to be a lawyer (judge) so he knows how to and whose belly to scratch! Check your history, he had the same problems at the Granada when he owned it...but played stupid when confronted on people getting hurt . One of these days Mike you won't be able to play stupid... you will be held accountable for your STUFF. Makes you wonder when renting a bar became more lucrative than being a judge or lawyer.... does he have insurance?

truetownie 12 years ago

look at the numbers...the bar wasn't even open 135 nights last year. I doubt they had the police called to many wedding receptions...or charity events. Abe and Jake's does a lot for this community beyond being a bar for college kids one or two nights a week. No one mentions that while this article was being written Abe and Jakes was hosting "Save Sudan: A Benefit for Life". It's easy to be bitter about someone elses success and hard work paying off when you're sitting at home.

Godot 12 years ago

truetownie, thank you for your post. It confirms the questions that I expressed in my earlier posts about this issue. Elwell got an incrediblty sweet deal (unbelievably sweet) by promising to some influential people (liberals) that he would make his establishment available for their political and social initiatives. So, all taxpayers have paid to allow an individual to make a very big profit and to use a public asset for partisan political purposes while not paying rent or taxes.

Sounds like something that would happen in, say, Texas or New York City or Las Vegas, but, no, it happens right here in River City, too.

badger 12 years ago

Godot -

You think a benefit for Sudan is going to be exclusive to either side of the aisle? Piffle. Opposition to that particular genocide is as nonpartisan an issue as you can find in Washington these days. Sudan's hardly a liberal cause, and rightfully so. No one in any major party likes what's going on there, ok? Cool the conspiracy theory jets, there.

My only thought on the number of police calls is that they break them down by number, not by type. It's all but meaningless that one place had more calls than another if the place with more calls was simply more likely to call the cops for a certain infraction than the place with fewer calls. Without seeing a breakdown of what the calls were for, I have no way of knowing that Abe & Jake's didn't call the cops for 65 parking infractions, something none of those other clubs would really have to worry about, as they don't have parking lots. The flat statistic itself doesn't enlighten much, really.

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