Richard King, former owner of The Blue Note and Rose Music Hall, and three partners are buying Cooper’s Landing. The deal could be finalized by March 1 or sooner.
The three other buyers in the deal are Jim Alabach, Grant Stauffer and Scott Robinson. The check is in escrow, and it’s a 99 percent “done deal,” King said Wednesday. He wouldn’t reveal the sale price.
Mike Cooper, 70, has owned and operated Cooper’s Landing at a beautiful bend in the Missouri River for the past 30 years. King said Cooper wanted to sell the popular music, camping, dining, boat docking and fueling station to King earlier. But King couldn’t jeopardize his agreement with the buyers of The Blue Note and Mojo’s — now Rose Music Hall. Their agreement stipulated that King could not run a music venue for four years.
King said he’d heard that Cooper had a deal to sell the place last year, but it fell through. He said he couldn’t be more excited that an agreement is almost finalized, and he credited Cooper for his cooperation every step of the way.
“You can’t find a better setting right there on the river like that,” he said.
In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Cooper said he had “mixed feelings” about selling his namesake river hangout.
“The mixed feelings are that I won’t be in charge anymore, but the exciting part is that I’ll have new opportunities I’ve never had before, a little money and a steady income from this because of the way we structured the deal,” Cooper said. “I just turned 70. It’s happy for me and nostalgic — it makes it easier for me, because I’m so comfortable with these guys.”
Cooper said he’s known King for a long time through planning events at The Blue Note for the Missouri River Cultural Conservancy.
“It just makes me really comfortable that the people I’m selling Cooper’s Landing to have the same kind of outlook as I do about how they want to run it,” Cooper said.
He said the buyers share his values and commitment to maintaining a connection to the community and making Cooper’s a family-friendly place.
Beyond a thorough “sprucing up,” King said no big changes are planned right away. “We want to get in and clean it up and give Vanessa (Mabus) the tools she needs to be successful,” King said.
Mabus, who has been managing Cooper’s Landing for the past three years, told King she runs out of food almost every night and at times she has to close earlier than she should. King said he hoped to alleviate those problems right away. Whether Chim’s Thai Kitchen would remain part of the scene was undecided, he said.
King also said the trailers that sit on the 1.5-acre site are problematic. Eventually, they’ll be removed to make space for his dream of a campground of Airstreams that people can rent for weekends or weeklong stays on the river. Bathrooms and showers are also a part of the near-future renovations, which he hopes will draw long-distance trail cyclists from the Katy Trail.
He also wants to maintain Cooper’s local flavor through relationships with local bands, drawing on his longtime music-booking experience and synergies with the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, which he runs.
“I think we could probably improve the stage area and make it more user-friendly,” King said.
After the property changes ownership, King wants to immediately apply for a new liquor license, which would allow him to add wine and spirits to the offerings — partly so he can enjoy a Manhattan alongside the Big Muddy.
“I honestly do picture I’m not going to make it anything other than it already is,” King said. “There’s 30 years of history there.”
As for Cooper, he will have a five-year lease for his home on the river and will act as a consultant and supporter to King, Alabach, Stauffer and Robinson.
“For a small piece of property, it’s pretty complicated,” Cooper said.
One of those complications is the river itself, which has climbed over the road some years and flooded the property. But even in bad years, the building has remained solid.
King said he asked Cooper what he does when the floodwaters close the road.
Without missing a beat, Cooper told him, “We close.”
Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.
Sarah Haselhorst contributed to this report.