News and notes from around town:
• If you are social, if you are suggestive, if you have a bit of swagger, then you may well have a new club in Downtown Lawrence.
Shots — a self-described California-style luxury lounge — is in the process of opening at 10th and Massachusetts street in what used to be The Orient Vietnamese cafe.
“We really thought the essence of California needed to be brought here to Lawrence,” said Jason Nguyen, who is serving as CEO of the enterprise.
And evidently, social, suggestive and swagger are all California hallmarks. At least that is the tagline Shots is using for the club.
The club is definitely going for an upscale look in downtown. The entire Orient space has been remade. Flat screen TVs are built right into the wall and framed with rich hardwoods. The walls themselves are partially covered with a flagstone-like material, and there is granite everywhere with new tables and bars.
“We think college students want something affordable but also want something luxurious,” Nguyen said.
Food also will be part of the mix. If you remember, the city requires new drinking establishments in downtown to make a majority of their revenue from food sales, except for a handful of locations that have been grandfathered in as pure bar uses. I haven’t seen a menu yet, but Nguyen told me he has a California chef who is creating a menu that combines Asian, Mexican and American influences. For example, a Korean beef taco will be on the menu, as well as a spring roll filled with American ingredients.
In addition to being a luxury lounge, the location also will be available for private parties, Nguyen said. In fact, the business has a private party booked for Saturday, and then plans to be open to the public beginning on Sunday.
• If you are going to be at Shots or anywhere else in downtown Lawrence on Saturday night, be prepared to stay awhile.
Saturday, of course, will be the big night for the Jayhawks in the Final Four. If the Jayhawks win, there will be pandemonium in the streets, and the police department also will have a different plan for how to deal with the crowds.
Unlike last weekend, Massachusetts Street and most other side streets that cross Massachusetts won’t be open to any vehicular traffic following a KU victory.
“Frankly, we just need the space the streets provide,” Police Chief Tarik Khatib told city commissioners at a recent briefing. “There’s no way we can keep people on the sidewalks.
“But all of this does mean that if you park your car down there, you are probably staying down there for the duration. We won’t be escorting anybody out.”
Khatib said plans are for Massachusetts Street to be shut down to traffic from Sixth to 13th Street following a victory.
Khatib said Sunday’s crowds following the Elite Eight victory were a bit larger than police had expected, and they’re using the experience from 2008 to assume crowds could be huge. We reported in 2008 that about 40,000 fans — or about half of the city’s entire population — filled downtown streets after KU’s win over Memphis. An estimated 80,000 people came to downtown a few days later for a National Championship parade.
The department will be ready, Khatib said. Law enforcement officers from 10 other area agencies will be joining LPD staff in downtown. Those helping out include: the KU police department, the KU Med Center police department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, the Ottawa Police Department, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, Overland Park Police Department, the Olathe Police Department, the Lenexa Police Department and the Kansas Highway Patrol.
In total, Khatib said “several hundred officers” will be available for downtown duty.
“We have gotten great support from the law enforcement community,” Khatib said. “They don’t charge us for this. They provide this service through a mutual aid type of arrangement. We provide them water and snacks, but they don’t charge us for their expenses.”
• City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday agreed to spend about $197,000 to purchase a new diesel-fueled trash truck for the city’s fleet of vehicles that empty the commercial Dumpsters around town.
But city commissioner gave some indication that the days of purchasing diesel trash trucks may be getting a bit shorter. Commissioners really urged staff to fully investigate the feasibility of buying compressed natural gas vehicles in the future.
City Manager David Corliss said research already is underway on the topic. But he said fueling compressed natural gas vehicles continues to be a challenge. Black Hills Energy has installed a natural gas fueling station for its vehicles at its East Lawrence shop site. And as we’ve previously reported, the folks at the Lawrence-based Zarco convenience store chain have plans to install a natural gas fueling station at their Ninth and Iowa store.
But Corliss said neither of those fueling stations allow for the quick fueling of vehicles. Corliss indicated a trash truck, for example, would need to be fueled overnight using the technology currently in place at the Black Hills site. How long it would take to fuel up a normal size vehicle, I don’t know.
“We are in discussions, though, to determine if a private purveyor could make the substantial investment to provide the fast fueling option,” Corliss said. “But to make the type of investment needed, it likely will require several users of CNG.”
Corliss said he is meeting with County Administrator Craig Weinaug to talk about the CNG issue. I know when I have talked to Zarco leader Scott Zaremba in the past, he has said he would like the city, the county and KU to take a serious look at converting some of their fleets over to CNG.
City Commissioner Bob Schumm said he thinks trash trucks would be the logical place to start because they use a lot of fuel and the city’s fleet is at the point that many trucks currently need replaced.
I haven’t talked to Zaremba in awhile about his plans for a CNG station at Ninth and Iowa, but Schumm said Zaremba indicated he’s still about six months away from having anything in place.
As for cost, diesel fuel runs about $4 a gallon these days. The equivalent amount of compressed natural gas is about $1.80. City officials did ask trash truck manufacturers how much more it would cost to purchase a truck that runs on CNG instead of diesel. The bids came back about $30,000 to $40,000 higher, or about 15 percent to 20 percent more than a standard diesel trash truck.