A natural gas explosion destroyed the popular JJ’s restaurant in Kansas City, Mo., around 6 p.m. on Feb. 19, leaving up to four feet of rubble in its wake. At least 16 people were injured in the explosion, with four in critical condition in area hospitals and one restaurant employee reported missing.
JJ’s, holds Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence for its wine list, and was a Grand Award winner from 1996 to 2005. The fate of much of the 1,830-selection list was unknown at press time; many of the bottles had been stored off-site in the past.
The restaurant, located near the upscale Country Club Plaza shopping center, opened in 1985 and is owned by brothers Jimmy and David Frantzè. It was one of Kansas City’s most popular dining spots and counted many of the region’s movers and shakers as customers. However, its bottom line had suffered during the recession; business had also been hurt by long-delayed office development across the street from its dining room.
According to the Kansas City Star, few patrons were in the restaurant at the time of the explosion, due to reports of pervasive natural gas odors in the area. The local utility company had cordoned off the area and instructed everyone in the restaurant to leave. Some employees had fled running from the restaurant and were caught in a nearby alley when the explosion occurred.
The local utility, Missouri Gas Energy, was investigating whether a contractor had cut an underground gas line by accident. The Frantzès are vowing to rebuild.