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Dave’s Stagecoach Inn, iconic Westport dive bar, has closed after 70 years

Dave's Stagecoach Inn originally opened in Westport in 1952, and moved to its current location in the 1970s.
Gabe Rosenberg
KCUR 89.3
Dave's Stagecoach Inn originally opened in Westport in 1952, and moved to its current location in the 1970s.

An anchor of the Westport neighborhood since 1952, Dave's Stagecoach Inn closed its doors Wednesday. Across generations, recessions, and more than one location, the late-night hangout kept its character and sense of community.

Dave’s Stagecoach Inn, a mainstay of nightlife in Kansas City’s Westport neighborhood, has closed after more than 70 years.

Its last day in business was Wednesday, Feb. 14.

Owners Joyce and Jim Hess say they are retiring, a decision that they’d planned for a while — their current lease ends in March. But that doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye.

“It was a real community,” Joyce Hess said. “That’s the bittersweet part of having to announce our retirement and walk away from it all. There were so many memories and so much community was built there.”

Easily recognizable on Westport Road by its bright red, yellow and blue marquee, Dave’s Stagecoach Inn prided itself on being a quintessential dive for locals, especially the late night crowd.

Hess’s father, David Golad, founded the bar back in 1952, when the neighborhood had few others.

Hess says that her father was the son of Russian immigrants, and as a young paperboy in Cedar Rapids, he was drawn to the laughter and warm atmosphere of local bars. Even then, Golad wanted to own a bar of his own.

After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Golad and his wife, a Holocaust survivor, moved to Kansas City with their first child in 1951. He began work at an auto plant before deciding it was not for him, and switching to work at a relative’s bar, Fox’s Tavern on 18th Street.

There, Golad learned the ropes of the bar business before purchasing the Westport storefront that would become Dave’s 423 Club.

From serving breakfast to night-shift bakery workers to hosting lively dance parties on the weekends, Dave’s 423 Club was active around the clock.

“My dad was pretty much there almost 24/7,” Hess said. “He would drop us off at school, then go straight to the bar, come home and have dinner with his family, take a short nap then turn around and go back.”

In 1972, Golad was priced out by Westport developers and moved his business down the street to the location it would keep for the rest of its run, at 316 Westport Road.

“He took the original bar from up the street, cut it up into pieces, rolled it down the street on rollers and re-assembled,” Hess said. “And that’s how Dave’s Stagecoach Inn came to be.”

Hess and her husband took over the business a decade later. Hess continued to work her day job as an accountant, while Jim picked up night shifts at the bar. Golad stayed on the bar’s day shift.

Golad died in 2006, at the age of 85.

Hess said that over the years, the employees and regulars became a family. Besides the lunch crowd and after-work regulars, they hosted fundraisers for their customers, and even a few memorial services. Hess remembers one loyal customer who requested to have their wake at the bar.

“They parked the hearse with his casket in front of Dave's, and then had the wake in a big ceremony, “ she said. “It was like lines around the corner. People walked in, did a shot of Irish whiskey and walked out.”

Over the years, the crowds changed as regulars retired, new businesses moved into the area, and younger generations started frequenting the bar.

In the 2000s, after Kansas City’s smoking ban pushed some evening regulars away, younger customers started coming in later and later — their peak hours shifted to between 1-3 a.m.

Hess says business dropped a few years later, due perhaps to the recession or changing lifestyles. Despite the neighborhood’s changing landscape, Hess says they were glad to be a part of the community.

“We've always been proud to say we're located in Westport,” she said. “Westport has been very good to us. All of those businesses that are right next door to us and across the street from us, all locally owned, small business people. And that's the crux of our society.”

Now, Hess is looking forward to spending time with her children, one of which has a business of her own as a dance studio owner. Hess says that her daughter was inspired by grandfather’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Hess said after they announced the closing of Dave’s, old customers reached out asking if she was interested in selling. She says she plans to work with her landlord to figure out the details.

“We would love it if somebody would love to carry on Dave’s tradition,” Hess said. “It just can’t be us anymore.”

Isabella is the spring 2024 intern for KCUR News. An Iowa native, she recently graduated from the University of Georgia, where she studied anthropology and environmental design and was part of the UGA Asian American Journalists Association. Email her at luui@kcur.org
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