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Dueling piano bar slated for Downtown
The home of a once-controversial downtown dance club soon will have a different type of sound coming out of it — piano music. A dueling piano bar — the first of its kind in the city — is slated to open next month in the New Hampshire Street building that previously housed The Last Call. The Barrel House, 729 N.H., will feature two grand pianos staffed by professional musicians who will play and sing songs for tips. The dueling piano bar concept allows other patrons to step in and preempt a song by paying a larger tip to have something else played. “It just creates a really unique, fun atmosphere,” said Alex Akers, one of the owners. “It is not your normal bar feel.”Akers said the concept has become popular with college students across the country. The dueling piano bar trend has made it to the Kansas City area, but this would be the first such bar in Lawrence, she said. She said the ownership group — which includes her sister, Emily Akers, and former bar owner Danny Williams — is interviewing musicians currently. She said the bar — which takes its name from a term used to describe saloon-style jazz and blues music — likely would have about six to eight musicians that play at different times at the bar, and also would host guest musicians. “We think it is going to go over great in Lawrence because Lawrence is known for its music,” Alex Akers said. “This is the type of thing that needs to be in Lawrence.” Akers said the group hopes to have the bar — which will serve a few snack foods but won’t include a full kitchen — open by mid-to-late March. Akers said the new club has no affiliation with the former owners of The Last Call. The Last Call vacated the building in February 2008 after three people were shot and injured outside the nightclub. That followed a 2006 incident during which seven shots were fired inside the club, although no one was injured.After the closing, the bar’s ownership group — led by Dennis Steffes — sought to keep its lease on the building. But the bar company gave up its lease as part of a court settlement in August with the owner of the building, the Park Hetzel III Trust.