So long to the Yacht Club; longtime night spot to become home to new bar and homestyle grill

photo by: Nick Krug

The Yacht Club, 530 Wisconsin St.

Pull in the anchor. It sure appears that the longtime Lawrence bar the Yacht Club is gone for good. A Topeka businessman has bought the building near Sixth and Wisconsin streets and will be opening a new bar and grill concept in early January.

The new place will be called the Bar’N Grill, matching the name of the popular establishment owner Dave Kruger has in west Topeka. Lots of people in Topeka simply call the place The Barn. While it doesn’t have a full-on country motif, Kruger said the establishment is meant to have a more relaxed feel than a bustling club.

“It is kind of laid back and comfort food,” Kruger said. “Almost everything is handmade and hand-breaded. It is not frozen straight off the truck and thrown into the fryer.”

photo by: Nick Krug

The Yacht Club, 530 Wisconsin St.

Expect food to be a bigger part of the operation than it was at the Yacht Club. Kruger said at least half of his business at the Topeka establishment is food sales, while the rest comes from the bar side of the operation.

Traditional chicken-fried steak and pork tenders are among the more popular items, Kruger said. But the variety of the menu also is a selling point. There is a steak night on Mondays, tacos on Tuesdays, and soups — think chicken noodle, gumbo, potato, and ham and bean — are big items in the winter. Chef specials also are a regular feature, including — based on past menus — fried deviled eggs, rib tips, lasagna, po’boy sandwiches, and chicken and waffles.

Kruger said the restaurant will be open for lunch every day, and plans call for a brunch buffet on Sunday mornings. As you are perhaps figuring out, Kruger is trying to attract a crowd that goes beyond just the college students, which was the primary crowd for the Yacht Club.

“Our customer base in Topeka is a wide variety,” Kruger said. “You’ll have kids sitting in high chairs, you’ll have grandmas and grandpas, and at night we have a lot of students too.”

Or, another way Kruger put it: “We’re fine with Buicks in the parking lot.”

While the name will change, don’t expect many changes to the building, 530 Wisconsin St. The Yacht Club long ago had moved away from any nautical theme it ever had. (I can attest that a Thurston Howell III impersonation hardly drew a laugh anymore.) In recent years the building had been remodeled more into a ranch style with lots of stone and wood, which suits The Barn concept just fine.

But do expect the TVs to remain for sports and, importantly, the big basketball scoreboard that always has the final score from the KU-Memphis national championship game in 2008. Kruger said he also may put the old Yacht Club sign up on one of the walls to pay homage to what ended up being a longtime bar in Lawrence. I’m not sure when the Yacht Club first opened, and anybody who was actually there probably is in no condition to remember it. But, based on personal knowledge, the bar had at least a 25-year run in Lawrence, although the last few years saw it go through several closings and openings. It probably hit its low point when it was the site of a much publicized altercation between KU basketball star Josh Jackson, a KU female basketball player and others.

Kruger said he decided to buy the building and get into the Lawrence market because he has several staff members with longtime experience in the bar and restaurant industry that could run the place in a way to make it successful and stable.

“For me, the whole place is really about comfort more than anything else,” Kruger said. “I just want a place where people can sit there and be comfortable for awhile and not worry about who comes in the door or anything else.”

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