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Central Standard

5 Little-Known Historic Mob Locations In Kansas City


Many Kansas Citians have heard of the Union Station Massacre or the River Quay explosion — two of the more infamous episodes in KC's mobster history. But what about the lesser-known mob landmarks?

Gary Jenkins, a retired KCMO police officer, created a new app that reveals the history behind all of those spots. He talked to Central Standard's Gina Kaufmann about Kansas City Mob Tour.

Here is Jenkins's list of the five little-known historic mob locations in town:

  • Last Chance Saloon: Located near State Line Road and Southwest Boulevard (where the QuickTrip now stands). The Last Chance Saloon was run by a mobster named Goulding in the 1950s before there were zoning laws. Half of the club was on the Missouri side, and the other was on the Kansas side. Legend states that when cops would show up to the saloon, all of the staff and patrons would simply walk over to the other side of the saloon and therefore across the state line, thereby avoiding prosecution.
  • First Ward Democratic Club: It stood at the corner of Truman and Charlotte (which is now a parking lot). On April 5, 1950, the "2 Charlies" — Charles Binaggio and his underboss, Charles "Mad Dog" Gargotta —  left the Last Chance Saloon to meet some mob associates at another mob-run establishment, the First Ward Democratic Club. They told other mobsters at the Last Chance Saloon they would return in a few minutes. They never did. The next morning, employees of the First Ward Democratic Club found the bodies of the two Charlies in a pool of blood. Strangely, their bodies were lying below a large poster of a smiling Harry Truman. The crime remains unsolved.
  • 1423 Baltimore: In the 1950s, the building was home to the Downtown "Bridge” Club. Bridge was not played there — illegal gambling was. It was a notorious mobster hotspot run by Nick Civella, who would later go on to be a mob boss.
  • The Coates House Hotel: Now Quality Hill Apartments, located on the southeast corner of 10th and Broadway. The Coates House Hotel was a hotspot of mob activity in the 1940s and 1950s. There was a convenience store that sold newspapers, tobacco, bubble gum etc. out of the first floor lobby that was a front for mob activities.
  • Tallman's Grill: Now the popular jazz club the Phoenix, located at 8th and Central. Tallman’s Grill was the place to eat for mobsters in the 1930s and 1940s. It also was where mobsters would get their race results.

Other interesting locations, according to Jenkins:

  • The Trap (or Northview Social Club) at 5th and Troost. All the mob guys socialized in its card room.
  • Villa Capri: The most important spot in the 1970s. Part of the block has been torn down, including the actual address of the Villa.This was a nightclub where plans were discussed to murder people and to skim money from Las Vegas. The famous scene in the film Casino showed a guy talking about the Vegas skim in the back of a store.The actual conversation took place at the Villa Capri.
  • The Virginia Inn at the corner of Admiral and Virginia. This building is gone, but this is where three masked men entered the crowded tavern and shot the three Spero brothers (Mike was killed; Joe and Carl were wounded).
  • The Park Central apartment at 300 East Armour is where mob boss Johnny Lazia was killed in the 1930s.

Ed. note: The name of prominent Kansas City mobster Nick Civella was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

Central Standard Mobsters in our MidstMafia
People don't make cameos in news stories; the human story is the story, with characters affected by news events, not defined by them. As a columnist and podcaster, I want to acknowledge what it feels like to live through this time in Kansas City, one vantage point at a time. Together, these weekly vignettes form a collage of daily life in Kansas City as it changes in some ways, and stubbornly resists change in others. You can follow me on Twitter @GinaKCUR or email me at gina@kcur.org.
Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.