Pushed hard by Allentown residents, Buffalo's Common Council is now shoving back against the long and slow expansion of bars along Allen Street.
Longtime Allentown Association activist Jonathan White has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years, since he bought a home. Then, there were five bars in the heart of the district, west from Delaware Avenue. Now there are three times as many.
"The mid-block between Elmwood and Delaware Avenue to Wadsworth Street, there are 17 State Liquor Authority licenses," said White, chair of the association's Crime and Safety Committee. "This is primarily a residential neighborhood and that many taverns in such a short, compact area creates a situation that is extraordinarily detrimental to the quality of life of residents."
White said it is hard on community residents trying to get some sleep when drunks coming out of the bars are misbehaving out front of their homes or even in residential yards. The increase in bars has brought masses of drinkers and some serious incidents.
It also has influenced a fall-off of small businesses. White said bars have priced out of the neighborhood many of the stores that used to attract visitors and tourists, like a bookstore and a clothing store, an art gallery and others. He said that is bad for tourism.
"When you have tourists staying in the many hotels on Delaware Avenue and coming into the neighborhood, you want them to be able to find an atmosphere that draws them in and gets them to spend money and drive the economy in ways that simply having a street of bars does not accomplish," he said.
White said the association is under constant pressure from its hundreds of voters to protect complainants. At the same time, the association represents businesses, so there is a balancing act.
The Council took a stand, blocking the re-opening of a bar at 197 Allen Street, at Elmwood Avenue. Council member David Franczyk told a meeting of the damaging effect of a recent mass brawl in front of that bar site, featured in an online video recording.
"Loss of parking of residents, the most dire of course has been the, thankfully, few shootings that have occurred," said the Fillmore District representative, "but the tremendous loss of life of criminal activity from public urination, from confronting residents, swearing, yelling, damaging property, destroying property."