JJ's to reopen across from original location - KCTV5

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JJ's to reopen across from original location

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JJ's, a popular upscale Kansas City restaurant that was destroyed by a gas explosion last year, plans to reopen this summer across the street from its previous location. JJ's, a popular upscale Kansas City restaurant that was destroyed by a gas explosion last year, plans to reopen this summer across the street from its previous location.
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -

The owners of JJ's Restaurant, an upscale Kansas City restaurant leveled last year by a gas explosion, say they have plans to reopen this summer.

Brothers Jimmy and David Frantze said the new 4,800-square-foot restaurant and bar will be located on the south side of the ground floor lobby in the new Plaza Vista Building a few blocks from the Country Club Plaza.

"I also wouldn't have done this if the staff weren't so supportive and wanted to come back," Jimmy Frantze said.

The new site is located at 900 W. 48th Place, across the street from the restaurant's original location.

"We're coming back from the ashes," Jimmy Frantze said. "I'm ready to go to work. I miss the business. I miss the people."

The Plaza Vista building, which opened in November, seemed like the perfect fit, he said.

Jimmy Frantze says he expects about 90 percent of his former employees to return and they hope to reopen by the end of the summer or early fall. An exact date has not been set.

"Initially we all dealt with the shock, the heartbreak, the loss of a dear friend, injuries. It was emotionally challenging for most of us," said employee Joe Avelluto.

Other employees say this is a new beginning for a part of Kansas City history that's meant so much to them.

"Right after the explosion we were all... emotion got the best of us, there was definitely doubts," said JJ's General Manager Matt Nichols.

An explosion caused by a natural gas leak on Feb. 19, 2013, killed server Megan Cramer and injured several other workers. The blast leveled the restaurant and damaged two neighboring buildings.

The explosion at JJ's occurred after a crew for Heartland Midwest, an Olathe-based cable company subcontractor, breached a natural gas supply line with an underground borer. Fumes from that leak filled the building and were ignited, possibly by a pilot light, according to a Kansas City Fire Department investigation.

The Frantze brothers say they considered rebuilding at the original site, but the bids to rebuild the way they wanted to were "insanely expensive," at a cost of upwards of $4 million.

The new restaurant will have a large outdoor patio and abundant parking. The new JJ's will start with the same menu and only a sword and a wall picture were salvaged from the old building. Both, including a plaque honoring Cramer, will go into the new building.

"I think she would want us to do it. She was very much alive and a vibrant part of the JJ's scene when she was here, so I think she's smiling right now," Jimmy Frantze said.

Cramer's friends say she would have wanted to see JJ's reopen.

"This was her life. She was an attorney who could have done anything in life she wanted, but she choose to be in the restaurant business, so absolutely this is something she would have wanted," Avelluto said.

The community also couldn't be more excited about the announcement.

"We're so very, very proud and pleased to see our good neighbor and friend return to this corner in the West Plaza," said Joe Montanari, the president of the West Plaza Neighborhood Association.

For people living in the area, Kansas City, MO, Mayor Sly James, a frequent visitor to JJ's, summed it up well.

"A lot of us invested a lot of time and energy there because it became our place. It was basically our Cheers with real gusto," James said.

A corner yellow brick facade and front entryway tile are nearly all that remain of the original JJ's site that opened in 1985, and the Frantze brothers said they haven't decided what to do with the property.

The two neighboring buildings damaged in the blast have not yet been repaired.

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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