June 16, 2020
Neighborhood bar. Hole in the wall. Favorite hangout of Chiefs players? The Muny Inn, at the corner of 33rd Street and Mitchell Avenue, wears many hats.
Originally operating as a diner located across the street from its current 127-year-old building, the establishment became a popular hangout for golfers after Fairview Golf Course (the city-owned or the Municipal/Muny course) opened in 1925.
“Fairview didn’t have food or alcohol when it opened,” said Timmy Lawrence, co-owner. “So golfers would come here, total up their scorecards and even leave them here. It became a makeshift clubhouse for Fairview.”
In 1933 the Muny moved to its current location and became known as the “19th hole” because of its regular golfer clientele. But eventually golfers integrated with other types of customers, becoming a melting pot of St. Joseph.
“We’re a landmark to some, a problem for others,” Lawrence joked.
Lawrence, a St. Joseph native, became familiar with the Muny as a college student.
“I started here checking IDs on Wednesday nights – all you can drink night – then became a fill-in bartender,” he said. “After college, I did the corporate thing during the day, started putting money back, but still worked here a couple nights a week.”
But a corporate career path wasn’t in the cards.
“I’ve always wanted to own a business because I was raised in a family-owned business,” he said.
St. Joseph residents might remember Lawrence’s Amoco at Eighth and Mitchell, a five-generation business.
“I was the kid hiding in the tires,” he said. “I worked with Dad as a teenager. It was more than a gas station to a lot of people.”
His father, Danny Lawrence, died unexpectedly in 1997. His dad didn’t know a stranger and went the extra mile to help people in need.
“I’ve never been to a funeral like that,” he said, recalling stories of customers who had become friends.
Getting his work ethic from his father, when he became Muny co-owner with Denise Lewis he went in guns blazing.
“I started trying to change things like crazy,” he said. “I realized you can’t do all of that at once.”
The grill had originally come out of the Muny in 2003, but they tried to bring food back.
“Food just didn’t work out, there are too many good places to eat here,” he said.
The Muny has also tried to become a live music venue with limited success, but at the end of the day, the bar is most successful with its tried and true customers.
“It’s like going over to your grandpa’s – it never changes,” he said. “But all of our customers are different and that makes us unique in our own way. The fact that it has made it this long, come this far for a little neighborhood bar is really something.”
Some of its biggest nights are St. Patrick’s Day and an annual Putt Putt fundraiser for the Northwest Autism Center. But Chiefs Training Camp also brings an uncommon set of customers.
“Fans hear whispers that the Chiefs hang out here,” Lawrence said. “We are just four stoplights from campus.”
So do the Chiefs really spend their limited free time at this historical hole in the wall bar? Lawrence wouldn’t give many details, but he did recently post a photo of Dustin Colquitt with a Muny Inn t-shirt on Facebook. The veteran punter had just been released from the Chiefs roster after 15 seasons. Lawrence said he’d miss seeing his friend in St. Joseph…
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