Kansas City is known for lots of things—barbecue, jazz, straddling two states—but Champagne isn’t usually one of them. Ça Va, a four-year-old sparkling wine bar nestled in a busy entertainment district, might just change that.
It was founded by three industry vets: Caitlin Corcoran, a K.C. native and formerly the bar manager at nearby Port Fonda, now the general manager at Ça Va; chef Howard Hanna, whose prestigious resumé includes a Michelin-starred hotel in France’s Burgundy region; and Jim Coley, who formerly worked in wine in New York before moving to K.C.
(image: Zach Bauman)
It was Coley’s connections that initially helped the bar source Champagne and other sparkling wines, even when many were reluctant to bring their products into the Midwest market. “Our wine is treated like food and paid the same respect to sourcing as we do with our produce and meat,” says Corcoran. Their focus is primarily on grower Champagne (winemakers who also grow their own grapes), which Corcoran says is a more open process and more evocative of the terroir.
And while you might find yourself engaged in heady conversations about terroir at Ça Va, the bar’s emphasis is on making sure anyone who comes in has a good time. “Champagne for the people” is the bar’s mission statement, which is carried out by creating a bar that appeals as a neighborhood spot first, then introduces guests to the wide world of sparkling wines in as unpretentious and inviting a way as possible.
Besides its deep wine knowledge, the staff at Ça Va is trained in anti-racism, nonbinary hospitality and sexual assault awareness, all of which serves to create a safe, welcoming space. And alongside the wines that define Ça Va, the bar offers a full liquor menu, plus beers including Miller High Life, the “Champagne of beers,” as a sort of tongue-in-cheek option. Corcoran describes it as “a neighborhood bar that just happens to have Champagne.”
“Seven hundred square feet means low overhead,” says Corcoran, referring to Ça Va’s diminutive size. “We save money on that and pass it directly on to the customers. That was very purposeful. We wanted people to be able to enjoy the wines.”
While standard pricing for glass pours in restaurants is about the same as the price of a retail bottle, Ça Va uses a different formula: It charges guests a quarter of the price of the bottle, plus a dollar, meaning guests are able to drink Champagne they might not ever try elsewhere.
And knowing that guests trusted Corcoran for her cocktails at Port Fonda, the team created a cocktail menu, as well, one where each drink is topped with sparkling wine. This all serves the idea that Champagne isn’t just for special occasions but something that can be pleasantly enjoyed any time of year (though there are blowout parties all day on New Year’s Eve).
(image: Zach Bauman)
This demystification of Champagne, along with the welcoming vibe of the bar, quickly created a dedicated following. Corcoran says they have regulars that come in twice, even three times a week. Because of the small space and sometimes limited distribution of its wines, the bar goes through its bottles quickly, and guests often come back the next week to an entirely different menu.
Instead of seeing this as a problem, the staff has seized upon it as an education opportunity. If a guest likes a particular wine, the server can offer something similar, maybe from the same appellation or blend of varietals.
(image: Hermon Mehari)
As the bar grew in popularity and demonstrated how quickly it could move cases of wine, more purveyors and distributors were open to the idea of distributing to it, opening the door to more general distribution in Kansas City and beyond.
“We were able to impact other restaurants,” says Corcoran. “Before we opened, sparkling glass pours weren’t a thing in Kansas City. Now, everyone has to have, like, two of them.”