KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A troubled spot in the West Bottoms is getting a new life. You may remember Rockstar Burgers and it’s owner’s arrest. Now, new tenants say they hope to make the space into something positive.
Savage Saloon aims to have a new vibe under the building’s new management. The owners gave FOX4 a first look and tour of the cleaned up space. The owners say they want to make it a safe place for people to be. For nearly two years the space has been empty.
“Everything was black. Everything was graffiti’d, everything was dirty. When we walked through the door we thought what did we just take on?” co-owner, Tracy McDaniel said.
She says when they first came into the space it was enough to make most people turn around and walk out. There were beer cans and trash all through the space. Graffiti was covering the walls and a giant stripper pole connected to a stage was in the middle of the front part of the business.
McDaniel and her husband Robert McDaniel took over the space. He is better known as Big Rob Savage a metro rapper who touts a positive outlook and focus on the community.
In July of 2020, he collaborated on a song to help bring 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro’s killer to justice with the song ‘Do this 4 LeGend.’ McDaniel said they own a number of other businesses including a faith-based production company and a plumbing business.
Their next project is turning Rockstar Burgers into Savage Saloon with their logo based on Big Rob’s larger than life persona.
“To be able to do this is a dream come true for me,” Savage said.
The original Savage Saloon was in his backyard and exclusively for friends and family. Savage says they would make up menus and serve people on the weekends for fun, and now he is looking forward to making a business of it.
The tavern will not only have drinks, but food, and eventually a rarely seen before event space in the back. They hope to have themed nights where people can come and have fun, dance, and enjoy a positive experience.
“It’s something that is going to be enjoyable and safe and just a place to come and relax and hang out,” McDaniel said.
The space became infamous in Kansas City back in 2019 surrounding a series of incidents. A woman was assaulted outside of the restaurant in October of 2019.
Owner, Brian Smith, was charged with domestic assault and armed criminal action for allegedly pistol-whipping his then girlfriend at her Parkville home.
In July of 2020 he was also charged with animal abuse and sex with an animal related to an incident in his loft above the space.
Finally, last October he was indicted in federal court for allegedly being a part of a drug trafficking ring. Eighteen people were charged in the case claiming the group distributed methamphetamines’ and heroin amounting to more than $1.7 million. Smith was arrested and remains in the U.S. Marshall’s custody without bond according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. None of the suspects have pleaded guilty in the case and are set to go to trial in June of 2022. His charges in Jackson and Clay County will move forward once the federal case is complete.
“Whatever happened, happened. It’s a building. It’s a space,” McDaniel said.
Rockstar Holdings, LLC still owns the building, but they say they’ve never had contact with Smith. They were approached about possibly leasing the space and worked through others who have connections to Smith’s business dealings.
McDaniel said they signed a long-term lease and part of the agreement is that they will manage the building themselves. The third story loft space allegedly was cleaned out and sits empty. They do not expect Smith to return.
“Everybody knows about the negativity and we’re going to come in here and change that completely. It’s going to be all positive,” Savage said.
“New opportunity. New space. We just hope everyone will be open and want to come in and check it out,” McDaniel said.
They hope to have Savage Saloon open in early December.