Mad Hatter makes a return

Bar and grill owners hope to give residents a taste of the past

Downtown Lawrence's newest bar and grill serves all the standard fare: beer, burgers and booze. But its owners are hoping to offer customers a shot of yesteryear, too.

The Mad Hatter Bar and Grill recently opened in the former home of Rick's Place, 623 Vt.

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Scott McClurg/Journal-World Photo

Mad Hatter patrons, from left, Clint Jones, Nick Arthachinda and Christina Strubbe get their food from servers Kristen Badali, left, and Colby Chapin during lunch Friday. The new bar and grill opened in the former Rick's Place near Sixth and Vermont streets.

If the new place sounds familiar, it should. The Mad Hatter was the name of a longtime downtown watering hole and college hangout at 704 N.H.

The original Mad Hatter opened in 1969 and was a downtown mainstay for nearly 30 years until changing names in the early 1990s. The building where it was eventually was razed to make way for Borders Books Music & Cafe.

"We were definitely aware of there being a previous Mad Hatter," said Barry Loudis, a Kansas University athletic department staff member and co-owner of the new bar. "There were a lot of good memories made at that place. We want to see if we can bring some of that back."

Charlie Myers, the bar's other co-owner, hopes the name will help draw an older clientele who partied at the original bar and want to relive their youth -- at least for a night.

The pair admitted the new place doesn't look much like the original, but it does have a mural of a Mad Hatter on one of its walls. The original building had several murals of "Alice in Wonderland" characters.

In addition to the name, the new bar is unique in at least one other way: It is the first to open since the city banned smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places.

Myers said he was convinced the ban cost the bar some customers.

"It made me think a lot longer about whether I wanted to do this," he said. "But I decided to go ahead because the ban is across the board. And for some reason, I still don't think it is going to last."

Myers, who has worked at several bars in the city, said he wouldn't have gone ahead with the deal if the building didn't have a patio. That allows customers to take their drinks outside and have a smoke. He said the patio was such a large part of the business that he planned to buy heaters for winter.

The bar employs about 35 people.

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