You don’t say

“Sorry for the delays. But you know, it’s like anything, the longer you go without it, the more exciting it is when you get to see it again.”

Loony Bin partner Jeff Jones on how the comedy club probably won’t reopen in its new downtown spot until 2014

Loony Bin closes deal for downtown space

UPDATED — As expected, the owners of the Loony Bin closed a deal this week to buy the 13,000-square-foot building between First and Second streets on St. Francis across from the urban park on the southeast corner of Second and St. Francis.

“We hope to get open probably early fall, September or October at the latest, I would say,” says partner Jeff Jones.

The Loony Bin had been at 21st and Woodlawn in Oxford Square from 1999 until it closed in late March.

The new space is two buildings — one a single story and one that’s two stories — that are attached.

The 3,400-square-foot single-story space is where the comedy club will be. It will hold about 150, which is down from the 299 that the previous space held.

“Although that was pretty optimistic,” Jones says.

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Loony Bin deal is close to closing

WICHITA — The final contract is yet to be signed, but Loony Bin co-owner Larry Marks is confident the club will open on St. Francis downtown as early as September.

“It looks like we’re rolling ahead there,” he says.

“We are due to close on it in about a couple of weeks.”

Last month, Have You Heard? reported that Marks and his partner, Jeff Jones, are interested in a 13,000-square-foot building between First and Second streets on St. Francis across from the urban park on the southeast corner of Second and St. Francis. Their Loony Bin had been at 21st and Woodlawn until it closed in late March.

They’re looking to do more than comedy in the new space.

“We may expand our entertainment format a little bit,” Marks says.

He says that could be trivia nights, improv and “even newlywed games and all kinds of stuff.”

There also will be room in the building to possibly do retail or to use the space for an office or apartments.

Marks says he and Jones are considering proposals and should make a decision on the extra space within 60 days.

Loony Bin likely to open this fall on St. Francis in greater Old Town area

UPDATED — The Loony Bin, which closed in late March, could reopen in the Old Town area by fall.

“We have a contract out on a building on St. Francis downtown,” says co-owner Larry Marks.

“That part’s real encouraging.”

In September, Have You Heard? reported that the club was looking to leave Oxford Square at the northwest corner of 21st and Woodlawn.

Marks, who lives in Oklahoma City, and co-owner Jeff Jones, who lives in Little Rock, still have a few things to iron out before the downtown deal is done.

“It’s just a matter of completing the financing process, which probably isn’t going to be no problem,” Marks says. “In today’s economy, you never know.”

The 13,000-square-foot building is between First and Second streets on St. Francis across from the urban park on the southeast corner of Second and St. Francis.

The Loony Bin had been in Oxford Square since 1999.

“That club was very special to us,” Marks says.

He and Jones also own Loony Bins in their hometowns and Tulsa, but Wichita was the best-performing one for a long time.

“That was the premier club for a good nine, 10 years,” Marks says.

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Loony Bin owners look to buy new space

WICHITA — Loony Bin owners Jeffrey Jones and Larry Marks are looking for a new site for their Wichita comedy club.

The club has been in Oxford Square at 21st and Woodlawn since it opened in 1999.

“When we opened in ’99, that was kind of a happening part of town,” Jones says.

He says growth is now much further east in addition to west.

“There was nothing going on out west when we opened.”

Now, Jones would like to split the difference.

“We’d just kind of like to be in a little more central location.”

A couple of weeks ago, Jones and Marks bid on property near Old Town but weren’t able to get it. Currently, they lease space, but now they’d like to own their own building.

“The difficulty is finding a location that has enough parking,” Jones says.

Parking combined with the high cost of property in Old Town, he says, “is just a real challenge.”

Jones and Marks also own clubs in Little Rock, Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The Oxford Square lease is up in January. Jones says if he hasn’t found new space before then, he’ll try to get an extension where he is, but only for less rent.

If that doesn’t work, there’s a possibility the Loony Bin will temporarily close.

“Obviously,” Jones says, “we hope to find something.”

Payne’s Smokehouse BBQ to open in former Backstage Bar and Grill space

WICHITA — A new barbecue restaurant is opening in the former Backstage Bar and Grill space next to the Loony Bin on East 21st Street near Woodlawn.

Derrick Payne, who has been catering for some time, is opening Payne’s Smokehouse BBQ.

Payne says as he cooked for others, he kept hearing things like, “Hey, maybe you should open up a restaurant.”

Payne’s will seat about 70 and feature a range of barbecued meat, some fish, traditional side dishes and some nontraditional ones, such as spaghetti salad, veggie slaw and cornbread salad.

Payne says his meat dishes will be known for their smoky flavors.

“It can be as spicy as you want it with a little bit of sweet to it,” he says.

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Tweet of the week

Norm Macdonald came in and ordered a carrot juice! How cool is that?”

— A Wednesday tweet on Twitter from Zumo Juice & Java (@zumo_juice) in Bradley Fair about MacDonald, who is appearing at the Loony Bin this week

Frida’s Mexican Grill struggles with “soap opera” rezoning situation

WICHITA — Bridge repairs near 21st and Amidon aren’t all that are hurting Frida’s Mexican Grill.

The popular restaurant is struggling to get proper zoning for its special events room so customers can have parties with dancing.

“We can make a soap opera right now,” owner Mario Quiroz says of his situation.

When Quiroz, who also is an owner in La Mesa Mexican Restaurant, first opened near Thai Binh grocery on West 21st in April 2008, he planned to have a comedy club attached to his restaurant. He envisioned it as a “Loony Bin but for the Hispanic community.” He had a liquor license and a cabaret license, which was allowed in that shopping center’s community unit plan.

“I decided not to do that,” he says of the comedy, explaining that most comedians want to be paid up front. “It’s too risky.”

So Quiroz began having events in the space instead, but then he learned he needs a dance hall permit. He can’t get that without an amendment to the CUP. That’s because an establishment with a liquor license, a cabaret license and a dance hall license is considered a nightclub, and the CUP doesn’t allow a nightclub.

Quiroz has been struggling to get the amendment since September. At first, he says, it sailed through the District Advisory Board, and then the planning commission approved it.

But then a complaint from a concerned neighbor derailed his request.

“I’m not planning to have . . . a nightclub,” Quiroz says. “I want to have the choice to provide whatever my customer asks for.”

Then-city Councilwoman Sharon Fearey deferred a decision. Now, Quiroz is working with new Councilwoman Janet Miller.

“I’m asking for a decision, that’s all I want,” Quiroz says.

If the City Council votes this month to reverse its deferment decision, then it could vote on the amendment in early July. But Quiroz is not sure he’ll make it until then.

“There’s been several issues trying to make this place work,” Quiroz says. The bridge construction is the most pressing one now. He says the plan is to open at least a couple of lanes in the next couple of weeks.

“If they stay longer, I don’t know if I’ll be able to survive,” he says.

The economy, of course, is hurting as well.

“You can’t really imagine how hard it is to survive nowadays,” Quiroz says.

If the rezoning isn’t approved, he says he’ll look at moving elsewhere. Quiroz has a following that’s likely to keep dining at Frida’s wherever it moves.

“I know the restaurant concept will work if I just move east or west,” he says.

But that’s not Quiroz’s first choice.

“I don’t want to give up.”