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Award-Winning Kansas City Restaurant Destroyed in Explosion

Popular Missouri spot JJ's has long held a Wine Spectator award for its extensive wine list

Kim Marcus
Posted: February 20, 2013

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.

Kevin Donahue
Rocky River, OH —  February 22, 2013 11:12am ET
Why is it relevant that this now destroyed, former grand award winner had some financial difficulties during/after the recession? Hasn't the whole industry had the same problem? I think your terse report does a disservice to this restaurant and by association to the industry. Perhaps we should focus on the loss of a great restaurant, a great wine list, and the service person killed in the explosion rather than this petty detail. Shame on you wine spectator.
Don Clemens
Elgin, IL, USA —  February 22, 2013 12:56pm ET
This is a sad story. JJ's has been a fixture in KC for almost 3 decades and has been the "go to" for many wine lovers in the Midwest when they've had the occasion to be in that city. Jimmy Frantze is a terrific host and a great wine guy. I hope the rebuilding happens soon.
Bill Leavitt
Overland Park, KS —  February 27, 2013 9:09pm ET
I'm with Kevin above, how petty after the many losses involved structurally, economically, emotionally, and physically, to mention 'Its bottom line had suffered.' Seriously Kim, have some class.
For those who never dined at JJ's, it was a fantastic restaurant with an almost separate bar, offering an amazing wine list and intimacy. We were just there 2 months ago sharing a bottle of Beaucastel, cozied up in the bar corner watching Jimmy socialize with friends. What a place, sadly missed.

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