Bar owners, event promoters meet as Buffalo ponders registry ordinance

Sep 30, 2016

Several Buffalo bar owners and local event promoters met in City Hall to discuss how they may protect their respective operations, and prevent problems such as violence during special events promoted by third parties at local establishments. Third-party promoters may soon be required to register with the city.

Back in June, a large party organized by a third party inside the Lodge, a bar on Chippewa Street, led to a large brawl during which gunshots were fired. One person was injured. The Lodge did not organize the party but was temporarily closed by the City of Buffalo during the investigation.

Buffalo Common Councilmember Darius Pridgen, far right, and Police Chief Joseph Gramaglia lead a meeting Thursday with local bar owners and event promoters to discuss how to better ensure safety during third-party events at city establishments.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

During a Thursday meeting inside City Hall, bar owners, local event promoters and public officials agreed that measures are needed to protect the public as well as establishments when independent promoters plan a large event.

"If it hits the fan, they've got their cover charge, their door money, and they're out the door and they're gone. It's all left on the bar and then we wind up taking sanctions on the bar, who is running a straight-up legit legal business," said Police Chief Joseph Gramaglia during the meeting.

A wide majority of local event promoters are honest and operate legitimately, Gramaglia and others pointed out. Their concern is for the ones they refer to as "fly by night" operations that advertise their event via social media, may lack insurance and don't necessarily communicate with all parties to ensure that enough security is in place.

Common Councilmember Darius Pridgen, who co-hosted the meeting with Chief Gramaglia, plans to introduce an ordinance that would require promoters register with the city.

He heard no opposition from any bar owners or event promoters in attendance.

"I was very pleased that we had a mixture of people, from promoters to owners to charitable organizations, who were all in this room working together saying 'let's not penalize people for wanting to expand and have events,' but let's make a way that notifies and keeps the lines of communication."

A draft resolution will be drafted and presented to the Common Council within the next three weeks. It will then go to the city's law department, which will draft the ordinance. Pridgen says the parties involved in Thursday's meeting will then be invited back to look over the proposal. The public will also be given a comment period. Pridgen hopes the ordinance may be passed by the end of this year.

Among the business owners in attendance was Jay Manna, who operates Soho Burger Bar and Frankie Primo's +39. He sees the proposed registry as a good system of "checks and balances."

"If they're in it for the long haul, and they really want to be a responsible business owner, they're going to take it seriously and register," Manna said. "If not, if it's a fly-by-night cash grab kind of thing, then they're not going to take it seriously. They won't be allowed to promote events."

Pridgen says Buffalo does not have a widespread problem with third-party events at downtown establishments but the city is eager to stay ahead as downtown entertainment options grow.

"I want to be clear. This is not 'let's shut down all of the events' at all, because this is the time we've waited for," Pridgen said at the opening of the meeting. "People are coming into downtown Buffalo and I want them to continue coming into downtown Buffalo. What I do feel is that the strategy may not be there."