Buffalo business owner hopes to buy Allentown bar despite opposition

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- A Buffalo business owner is fighting to buy a bar on Allen St. even though people living in the neighborhood are pushing back against the sale.

Neighbors want to see fewer bars in Allentown and say city leaders need to take a firm stand now.

There are more than a dozen bars open on Allen St.

Drew Graziadei hopes to take over the Alley Cat, near the corner of Elmwood. He is already a Buffalo small business owner, running a boxing gym on Elmwood Ave.

He said he doesn’t plan to have live music at the bar and would close it at 2 a.m. on weekdays.

“Name is staying the same, the decor, every single thing is staying the same,” he said. “The only thing that’s changing is the ownership.”

He just needs a special use permit from the Common Council to take over the establishment but he’s getting pushback.

The Allentown Association and other neighbors have asked the Common Council to prevent new bars from opening. If an existing bar is sold, they want city leaders to require the new owners close the bar and open a different kind of business on the property.

“I don’t really think that’s fair,” said Graziadei. “To say a bar that’s been there for 40 to 50 years, like a couple of the bars on that street, when they go to retire and sell their businesses they’re not going to be able to.”

Allentown Association Crime and Safety Awareness Committee Co-Chair Jonathan White told News 4 there are too many problems along the street. He said when he bought his house about 25 years ago, there were only four bars. Now there are at least 15.

“If through attrition we could get back to a reasonable number, then we can have a balance where we have a successful and vibrant business district and also a condition where families and residents can have peace in their homes,” said White.

He told News 4 problems have really been growing in the neighborhood over the past six years.

“People destroy gardens, destroy plantings, steal items off of porches and then rather disgusting behaviors such as urinating on our cars,” he described.

There have also been a number of reports of tire slashings and fights. Earlier this month, a man was shot and killed outside of an Allen St. bar.

“It’s kind of out of control,” said Councilmember David Franczyk.

He and other city leaders met with neighbors last Thursday. Franczyk told News 4 representatives from the BPO and Medical Campus have also expressed concerns.

“There are just too many [bars] and it’s disrupting the quality of life in that neighborhood and that to me is the number one concern,” said Franczyk.

The special use permit for Alley Cat has been tabled in committee. It’s required because Allentown is in a special overlay district.

“The city law says Allentown is such a unique neighborhood we have to keep that mix,” said Franczyk.”We want to keep a good mix of businesses because it’s residential and historic and unique, people want to go there, it shouldn’t be just one use like all bars.”

Graziadei told News 4 he understands the concerns but doesn’t think he should be punished.

“They have a legitimate argument to an extent but what they’re asking for is a little unreasonable” he said. “I feel like I’m going to be punished and the scapegoat and the sacrificial lamb if I let them do this.”

He said the current owner plans to keep the Alley Cat open, if he can’t buy it.