All Else The Sea sets sail in mid-November as a West Bottoms cocktail lounge serving food. Bob Asher and Josh Mobley, who own and operate neighboring bar and diner The Ship, decided to launch All Else The Sea with cautious optimism during an ongoing pandemic.
The new concept will be located in a 4,500-square-foot space that was formerly home to Foundation Event Space, which closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the event space became available, Asher and Mobley began discussions with landlord Adam Jones. Taking on the cavernous space and renovating it during a pandemic was a calculated risk.
The Ship’s schedule of live music and events and its food and bar operations took an immediate hit in March when a city-mandated temporary shutdown followed by occupancy restrictions curtailed traffic. Limited relief from the federal government wasn’t enough to sustain existing operations. Several employees were laid off. To adapt, The Ship reopened to offer curbside, delivery and outdoor dining and drink options. While The Ship continues to sell food and drink to go, Asher and Mobley realized that model wasn’t fully sustainable as winter approaches. “The job security of our staff weighs on my mind the heaviest,” Asher says.
The partners conceived of a plan to open a second venue in order to help their existing business and employees muster through the next few months. “For the safety of our staff, we stayed closed as long as we could. Once we exhausted our federal aid, we had to start looking for ways to keep everyone afloat through the winter,” Asher says. “We were able to work out a reasonable plan with Adam. We couldn’t do this without his understanding and generosity.”
Asher and Mobley envisioned the event space as a cocktail lounge with food offerings. All Else The Sea provides a second venue to operate safely, generate income and retain employees. The venue features a reception stand, where a host will check in online reservations and lead guests to their seat at one of 14 tables in the main chamber. Three alcoves provide secluded space for larger groups.
Food and drink will be served in a setting that provides limited occupancy, social distancing and heightened safety protocols for guests and staff. Menus will be available online for ordering. A full bar features spirits, 10 seasonal draft beers on tap and cocktails. Front-of-house manager Lotta Williams leads the cocktail program, which features pre-batched seasonal cocktails, such as a barrel-aged maple Old Fashioned, hot buttered rum, whiskey-based Crown Chai Latte and an Oaxacan Old Fashioned with mezcal.
Pre-batched cocktails shift the emphasis on craft preparation up front, minimizing the time to make and serve drinks and enhancing service at the bar. “We will use fresh ingredients, agave syrup, infusions of ingredients into liquor, and other techniques, but ensure the cocktails are still approachable,” Williams says. “People come to places expecting to see a cocktail menu, but we want ours to be easy to describe.”
The food menu will include classic burgers, a reuben, Cuban and other signature sandwiches familiar to customers at The Ship. Fried green beans, fried pickles and other snacks round out the menu along with specials. Sunday brunch highlights hand-cut housemade biscuits prepared by team member Kari Agosti. These towering biscuits are hearty yet light and flaky – the ideal platform for the Freedom Dip breakfast sandwich served with gravy on the side. Breakfast burritos, pancakes, biscuits with mushroom gravy and other homespun brunch food round out the menu along with brunch cocktails.
All Else The Sea takes its name from a Negro National League slogan, “We Are the Ship, All Else the Sea.” The slogan served as a pledge for the league to set its own course when it formed in February 1920 at a YMCA in Kansas City. League owners from Chicago, Cincinnati, Dayton, Detroit, Indianapolis and St. Louis joined Kansas City in forming the startup league apart from white-owned baseball leagues.
That bold independent spirit seems fitting as Asher and Mobley face headwinds and unknown challenges during the pandemic, with no certain end in sight. The cocktail lounge provides a welcome port for guests to climb aboard, fill their bellies and forge ahead with aplomb.
Artwork by noted local artist David Ford will be displayed in a gallery space within All Else The Sea. The exhibition opens on Fri., Nov. 6 from 6 to 10pm.
All Else The Sea, 1221 Union Ave., West Bottoms, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.471.7447, theshipkc.com