At Mort's Martini and Cigar Bar, the party on the patio is so good they had to figure out a way to keep it going year round. The answer: a whole lot of outdoor heating and air conditioning equipment.
When it's cold out, 19 individually- controlled thermal heaters keep things toasty. When the Wichita summer kicks in, about $10,000 in outdoor A/C equipment cools things off.
"We've made a substantial investment in keeping our customers warm and cool," owner Morrie Sheets said.
Or as Morrie's brother and partner, Matt, says: "If you ain’t the lead dog, you're looking at other people's …"
Mort's has been leading the way in Old Town since Morrie opened it 18 years ago.
During much of the year, that outdoor space features live music seven nights a week — the only venue in Wichita to do so. Monday nights, when martinis are half price, turn the bar into what's undoubtedly the state's biggest dispenser of spirits. But every day has its own vibe, from jazzy Tuesday to laid-back Sunday afternoons to Friday and Saturday, when full bands rock the house.
It takes an experienced team of servers to handle that volume of service, and Mort's has one, led by longtime manager (and now part owner herself) Emma Russell. The formula seems to go something like this: great service = good tips = employee longevity = even better service.
Morrie says another reason for the patio's success is the bar's seating policy, spelled out on signs: "We share seats at Mort's."
"You just go sit down, you meet a new friend," he said. "It's very, very popular with the tourists."
And maybe even more so with business travelers, who hear about Mort's through the Internet or grapevine and come to experience it for themselves.
"You see them the first time they come in, they love it and you'll see them every night" they're in town, Matt said.
Then there are regular customers, who may find their usual awaiting them when they sit down if they've been spotted approaching. Hang around enough and you might see Kid Rock, Harrison Ford or one of the other celebrities who have found their way to Mort's patio while visiting Wichita.
The Sheets brothers make no secret of the fact that they enjoy Mort's as much (or maybe more) than customers. If you see them around, you can bring them any complaints yourself.
Our guess is you won't have any.
The building that houses Mort's opened as a Mobil filling station owned by Morrie Sheets' grand- father, Bob, in 1928. The footprints of the old floor safe, office stove and other features are still visible.
• Some of the 500 or so framed photographs of customers posted around the bar are rotated in and out. When the bar's camera gets full of new ones, staff and customers vote on which ones deserve a spot on the walls.
• The bar supplies premium cigars and Mort's hats and shirts to many of the big-name entertainers who pass through town. "Kid Rock asked for them. Blake Shelton asked for them," Morrie Sheets said.
Mort's Martini and Cigar Bar | 923 E. 1st St. | 316.262.1785 | mortswichita.com