Pair of restaurants open next to Intrust Bank Arena

12/20/2013 7:27 AM

12/20/2013 7:28 AM

Mickey Lynch is diving into the restaurant and bar business in a big way.

At 5 p.m. Friday, he’s holding openings for side-by-side establishments practically in the shadow of Intrust Bank Arena: Walkers Bar & Venue and Jettys Pizza in the 200 block of South Commerce.

Together they contain about 9,000 square feet, with a seating capacity of close to 500 people.

On Tuesday, as carpenters put finishing touches on Jettys, Lynch was calm enough about the prospect to joke that he’s already looking ahead to his next challenge.

“This is what we hope to put in every city in the world,” he said of Jettys. “Not really, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”

Though connected by a walkthrough, Walkers and Jettys give off completely different vibes.

Walkers is all old hardwood floors and exposed ceiling beams – features dating to the 1908 when it was built as a flour mill. Jettys has a beachy feel, with lots of ocean blue, knotty pine and a 9-foot fake shark hanging from one bar.

Lynch envisions Jettys as a destination for business crowds at lunch and families at dinner. The main draw will be specialty pizzas, ranging up to 26 inches in diameter and touting names like the Island Hunter (bacon, sausage, mozzarella, habanero pineapple glaze) and the Princess (pepperoni, spinach, feta, romano roasted garlic). Sandwiches, salads and a few pastas will also be available. There’s an loft area that big groups can reserve.

Walkers, while also serving food during the day, will stay open later and feature live music several nights a week on a stage across from its long bar. Its menu leans heavier toward burgers, entrees and grown-up appetizers like oysters, broiled mussels and spicy garlic shrimp. Special after-work cocktail hours are planned for Wednesday and Friday.

Come warmer weather, there will be even more seating on patios out front.

For Lynch, whose background is in sales, the decision to get into the hospitality business was mostly accidental. Last summer, he heard that development of the property, which had been under way for some time, had stalled for lack of money. Lynch invested, thinking he’d be the landlord. Circumstances changed, as they often do in the restaurant business, and today Lynch is heavily involved in the actual operations along with original developer and partner Ryan Mills.

Asked what attracted him to the project, Lynch said: “The buildings. These two buildings are a great asset.”

Once committed, he added, “The ball rolled and we just kept on going.”

Lynch has brought in some experienced help, starting with bar manager Alicia Gregg, a familiar face from the east-side Walt’s. Gregg said another bar owner told her Lynch was crazy to hold a soft opening/VIP night last Saturday, when 10,000 people were attending the Wichita State-Tennessee basketball game across the street. About 600 people came through the doors.

“I’ve been behind the bar my whole life, I’m not scared of anything,” Gregg said.

Jettys will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, closing at 11 p.m. on the weekends. Walkers will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. weekdays, closing at midnight Sunday. Local bands Calypso and Blue-Eyed Soul are performing at Walkers this weekend.

Proximity to the arena was a big enticement for Lynch. He hopes Walkers and Jettys become go-to places for before and after arena events (Walkers refers not to the whisky but to the ease of walking to the arena). But the facility presents some parking issues. Currently, Lynch has an agreement with the arena allowing his customers to use that facility’s parking free of charge on any day when there is not an event (Lynch said there are 88 scheduled events this year). More parking is available on nearby streets. Lynch also plans to offer valet parking and hopes to negotiate further parking concessions with the arena.

Lynch’s development is among the first in an area that some people predicted would bloom following the arena’s opening three years ago. He’s serious about someday opening Jettys in other cities, something he says his father, the late Wichita broadcasting executive Mike Lynch, would have appreciated.

“He was an amazing entrepreneur. I wish he was here to see this.”

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