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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.


chewyfally 9 years, 1 month ago

I am excited for this. Best of luck to them!

Mixolydian 9 years, 1 month ago

Maybe we can recreate that Bob Newhart Show scene where Daryl and his other brother Daryl played the Theme from Exodus on thier matching ebony grand pianos.

Bob Zimmerman 9 years, 1 month ago

This sounds really cheesy. What Lawrence needs is a bar for people over 25 years old. You know, a bar where your feet don't stick to the floor and it doesn't smell like puke or urine. A bar in which the bar tender can actually make a cocktail and the bar tender can actually engage in a conversation rather than texting on their phone. A bar that has a mix of people (men and women) and not just a bunch of students and you can actually "shoot the breeze" and not just stare at a TV. A bar that services drinks in glasses and not plastic cups. A bar with a decent jukebox of rock n roll songs. A bar that doesn't require you to scream at each other because the music is too loud. I'm amazed that Lawrence doesn't have this. A bar that doesn't double as a restaurant and smell like french fries. A bar where you can get away for awhile. A bar that has live music on the weekends. Every bar here seems to be a college bar. Where do the grown-ups go to have a drink?

thubbard76 9 years, 1 month ago

Hey idiot (no offense), the bar you're looking for was called Stu's. It, for the most part, matched your description and was a great place to just hang out. Cheap drinks, good bartenders, a little smelly at times but still great. I wish I could have bought the place instead of letting it fold.

thubbard76 9 years, 1 month ago

Come on Multi, the bands were mostly just on weekends. But they were loud enough to kill you if you stayed long enough.

Raider 9 years, 1 month ago

There is a "dualing piano bar" in Harrah's on the Strip in Vegas. We hung out and watched a couple of sets last time we were out there. It was a blast! Very fun. I'm excited about this place opening. It's time we had some entertainment other than just a "bar". This is great news. Will definitely go there.

katiemac25 9 years, 1 month ago

This comment is to the person who said this is a really cheesy idea and that Lawrence needs a bar for the older crowd. You have obviously never been to a dueling piano bar before, so before you talk bad about it, try it out!! I have been to 2 piano bars before and they are so much fun!! I have driven to St. Louis just to go to the piano bar. It's a great place for people of all ages....so don't judge until you actually try it out. It will probably surprise you! They play a variety of music, and besides the music, it's a blast watching the crowd get in to it!! I'm excited this bar is coming to Lawrence. I CAN'T WAIT!!! Good luck to the owners, Alex Akers, Danny Williams and Emily Akers, I know you will have much success!

Alia Ahmed 9 years, 1 month ago

New York, New York in Vegas has a dueling piano bar too, at least a few years ago. It was a lot of fun. Good luck to the owners and manager.

d_prowess 9 years, 1 month ago

I too know a place that is just like what "idiot" is describing, but I don't want to say where it is so no one takes my seat! As for this idea, I think it will end up drawing in an older crowd. Sure their might be some college folks, but the way it works by giving tips in order to have your song played, you sort of need some people with money that can go to something other than drinks!

drumz78 9 years, 1 month ago

people come on there is no live music scene here

Jeteras 9 years, 1 month ago

the dueling pianos are the bomb, if they can get some good talent this will be the best bar in town!!!

goto howl at the moon in power and light district!! or Vegas Piano bar and see how cool they are

Ryan Neuhofel 9 years, 1 month ago

Fayetteville, Arkansas (home of U of A) has a great dueling piano bar. I hope Lawrence can support this place.

lawrencegrl 9 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence has a new grownup bar. It's in the old Molly McGees building on south Iowa. Classy place with real cocktails in real glasses, bartenders who know how to make a drink and great looking servers,it even has a coat check! I'm "older" and feel comfortable on the dance floor. I think it has DJs every night. You should check it out!

irunsowhat 9 years, 1 month ago

Pywacket, it's called "Chateu 24" I believe. It's been open for 3 or 4 weeks now. I've heard good things about it. I've heard it's "classy" and the drinks aren't outrageously expensive. I have yet to go there, so if anyone else has better information, please post!

I also am excited about this piano bar, it should be a good time. And is The Jayhawker not a "grown up" bar?

Omegatron 9 years, 1 month ago

Once again I read about something coming to Lawrence and... once again I have to go somewhere to get info on when it's going to open....

lawrencegrl 9 years, 1 month ago

I like the new place on Iowa (Chateau) because it has a nice dance floor & VIP areas you can rent for special occasions.

SusieCreamcheeze 9 years, 1 month ago

I will be there for sure...something new to do...Are you coming Ronda

Tom McCune 9 years, 1 month ago

Better dueling pianos than dueling Crips....

mmiller 9 years, 1 month ago

This is sweet!! But it sounds like they're going to have their own musicians. Can anyone play? I frequently play at the Signs of Life. I would love to play their if it's open to all pianists.

rockin88girl 9 years, 1 month ago

I have been a dueling piano player for many years...hopefully the owners know they can't just use ANY piano players. They have to be TRAINED in the concept and they need to hire experienced players or the place WILL go down in 3 months. I highly recommend electronic pianos. 95% of all dueling places use electronic pianos in shells. No tuning costs and sound goes right into the PA. Anyone know how to get in touch with the owners? I know some good experienced players nearby that are interested.

mapletree 9 years, 1 month ago

I love the idea of this place...but I am curious as to how the owners were able to secure a liquor license?

I thought that the city had an ordinance for downtown establishments that required any new place that wanted a liquor license to have a certain sales percentage in food (at least 50% I thought)? "A few snack foods" doesn't sound like anything that would meet that requirement. I realize that there was some type of "grandfather" period for new bars that opened in locations that previously had a liquor license, but I thought that once a time period (six months, I think?) had lapsed, the grandfather clause expired?

perhaps I'm remembering this wrong, but maybe LJW could research and answer this?

yellowhouse 9 years, 1 month ago

Perhaps they will have a sing-along night where a beautful woman in a red dress lies accross the piano and sings like in the 1940's!

George_Braziller 9 years, 1 month ago

mapletree - I was going to ask the same question about the liquor license. I'm also curious about the menu. Does snack foods mean appetizers, hors d'oevres, or Chex mix?

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 1 month ago

Did my comment from yesterday get deleted? Sounds like a couple "businesspeople" have some thin skin.

Bob Zimmerman 9 years, 1 month ago

"d_prowess: I too know a place that is just like what “idiot” is describing, but I don't want to say where it is so no one takes my seat! As for this idea, I think it will end up drawing in an older crowd."

Hey d-prowess, please provide the name of the bar! I can't take the college bars any longer (see earlier email). I think this piano bar will draw a real old crowd that wants show tunes (hey, let's sing along everybody) or those crappy top 40 tunes to please everyone (Billy Joel, Elton John, etc). But there is probably a market for this. Heck, I can't figure why people watch Idol, listen to Limbaugh, or listen to Metalica.

rusty2 9 years, 1 month ago

wow a doubling of the 'piano tax' is coming......

Haiku_Cuckoo 9 years, 1 month ago

There was a chain called Howl at the Moon Saloon that did the dueling piano format. Those places were good fun and generally did steady business for three years or so before the novelty tapered off. If you like to drink and sing along, you'll really enjoy it.

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