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State puts cork in plans for liquor store at former Gigi's location

Eileen Buckley

A liquor store proposed for the old location Gigi's restaurant on Buffalo's East Side will have to find a new place to open, after neighborhood opposition killed the project.

Gigi's historic restaurant, at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and East Ferry Street, was devastated by a fire in November 2015. Authorities say it started in the kitchen early on that Saturday moring and caused $150,000 in damage.

The once-popular soul food restaurant is now planning to re-open later this year in a new location. Gigi's will be re-opening inside the new Northland Workforce Training Center, on Northland Avenue near Fillmore Avenue, by members of the original family.

Earlier this year, an application was filed to turn the old restaurant site into a liquor store. However, that did not go over well with a series of power centers on the East Side and the application for a liquor license has now been withdrawn.

State Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) says he worked with Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) to pressure the New York State Liquor Authority into denying a liquor license.

"When the community opposition rose to the levels that it did, we spoke up on their behalf to the leaders that be in Albany that were making the decision at the State Liquor Authority," Kennedy said, "and because of that opposition and because the community spoke up so loudly, in such a unified way, the applicant withdrew the consideration for a liquor store at Gigi's."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
State Sen. Tim Kennedy said he applauds the neighborhood for its efforts.

Kennedy said Gigi's absence has hurt the neighborhood.

"I have eaten there so many different times and we miss it dearly," he said, "and the community wants to see a business or a productive use of that property."

Kennedy said there are already a number of places to buy a drink, by the glass or the bottle in that immediate neighborhood, but there are also families and churches. He said the building can be renovated and does not need to be demolished. He hoped someone makes a proposal the neighborhood will accept.

"It's all about the neighbors that worked so hard to get the message out, to have their voices heard, and to spark that opposition to a liquor store that would not have added to the quality of life in the neighborhood," Kennedy said, "and, quite frankly, according to that neighborhood opposition would have actually taken away from the building blocks that been put in place on East Ferry Street."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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