Highlands Gastropub and Cardroom closes

WICHITA — After losing its legal battle to keep its Kandu Challenge card game and facing financial struggles, Highlands Gastropub and Cardroom has closed.

“At some point, you gotta know when you’re beat,” says operations coordinator Shane McCullough.

Last month, Highlands representatives said they hoped to fight a Sedgwick County District Court ruling that Kandu is a game of chance and thus prohibited by Kansas law. They are still planning to appeal the decision.

In the meantime, though, financial problems have been mounting.

McCullough says he doesn’t blame the media, but he says news reports made it sound like when Highlands lost Kandu, the business closed.

“And so people, understandably so, thought we were out of business,” he says.

And those who knew it was still open may have been afraid to come.

“Are they putting themselves in any kind of legal jeopardy or turmoil just by walking through the door?” McCullough says they wondered.

In the middle of trying to weigh what to do, he says a couple of payroll checks bounced this week, including that of the head chef’s. That was the breaking point.

“The odds of overcoming the obstacles in front of us were diminishing,” McCullough says. “There was no longer much hope for a positive future.”

He says Highlands could reopen in another location if there’s a successful court ruling, but that’s potentially a ways off.

“We did not really anticipate them coming after us like they did in the end,” McCullough says of legal authorities. Before Highlands opened in November 2008, he says, “We’d had multiple conversations with the DA and AG and were routinely told they didn’t have a problem with the game.”

The landlord for the Highlands building, which is at 3731 N. Rock Road, is already showing the space.