The challenges kept presenting themselves.

The challenges kept presenting themselves.

On March 17, 2007, the Independence Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006 took effect. It prohibited smoking within enclosed areas of public places and places of employment.

Because of Side Pockets’ location within a few blocks of the city limits of Kansas City, residents could literally walk several blocks away to establishments that allowed smoking, said Robin Hodges, who has served as the Independence Side Pockets general manager since 2004.

“We took an extremely hard hit of about 40 percent,” Hodges said. “We struggled through the year (of 2007).”

Strike one.

Then, in early 2008, the state of Missouri demolished the Noland Road Bridge over Interstate 70 and rebuilt it for several months. From January to April, the bridge was closed – access to Side Pockets at 4470 S. Noland Road was extremely limited.

Strike two. 

“People just found it easier to go shop some place else, and there wasn’t anything we could do about it,” said Curtis Bliss, leasing agent, manager and owner of the Noland South Shopping Center. “We treaded water – the center did and particularly Side Pockets.”

The previous owner’s 10-year lease with Side Pockets was running out in summer 2008. The owner was in default for not paying the rent, so the Noland South Development LLP took possession of it in August 2008. Side Pockets had closed its doors in June 2008.

Strike three.

But then, changes started taking place. The Noland Restaurant LLP formed, and Hodges was charged with the task of revitalizing Side Pockets.

The Noland Road bridge was completed and reopened to traffic 37 days ahead of schedule in April 2008. Also, on June 6, 2008, a smoking ordinance that eliminated smoking in bars and restaurants in Kansas City took effect.

One day after Christmas, Side Pockets opened its doors again to the general public.

“Now that Kansas City has enacted their smoking ban, it has leveled the playing field considerably for any type of restaurant, sports business in this area,” Hodges said.

The Noland South Development Company LLP, a partnership between Bliss and retired lawyer Milton Adams of Arizona, developed the Noland South Shopping Center. Its first phase was developed in 1977 and the last building was completed in 1986 with about 150,000 total square feet of retail space.

“At that time, Noland Road had just been widened. In 1975, they widened Noland Road south of I-70,” Bliss said. “There was nothing down here. This was a hog farm – literally.”

Side Pockets started in 1998 as a local franchise that now has seven metropolitan locations. The Independence location became the third store in the metropolitan Kansas City area.

With the logo “Sports Bar Redefined,” Side Pockets focuses as a sports bar and restaurant – not so much on billiards as it used to, Hodges said. The Independence location grew financially about 20 percent each year during 2004-07, Hodges said.

The almost 16,000-square-foot restaurant has made a commitment to more sports programming, including the addition of a 16-foot high definition TV screen and eight new flat screen TVs. Side Pockets also now offers league play for pool and darts.

“People still have to have a place to go and dine out to get away from the day-to-day stress,” Hodges said. “People still have to have a place to go for entertainment for good value.”

Both Bliss and Hodges said they received good cooperation from the city of Independence during the Noland Road bridge repair last year.

“I fought it because I wanted them to do only half of it so they’d leave two lanes open,” Bliss said. “But, I didn’t succeed, and they were probably right. We almost gave up, though.”