Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Bazaar to be part of senior meal program

By Olimpcia Desamour and Michael Gibas
Buffalo Review – West reporters
The sounds of vegetables sizzling, young girls chattering over cups of bubble tea and old men in great debates: The West Side Bazaar has long been a melting pot for different cultures and now thanks to a new program it could see a new influx of people joining its tightknit community.
The Erie County Department of Senior Services was recently awarded a two-, $500,000 grant from the federal government in order to expand its current senior meal program. The current program allows senior citizens to walk into senior centers and receive a free lunch. The new program will partner with local restaurants and will allow seniors to come in any time of day and receive a meal based on the menu of said restaurant.
This is where the West Side Bazaar comes in, home to several up and coming restaurants Erie County approached the organization will be among the first locations to be a part of the new program and has also recently received their own grant that will allow them to expand to a larger location on the West Side.
But Bob Doyle, the operations manager at the West Side Bazaar, knows this program is more than just about the food, especially for seniors in the refugee community here in Buffalo and especially the West Side, which is the second most diverse zip code in the state of New York.
Doyle hopes that the program will allow seniors who may feel excluded from places like senior centers for whatever reason will see this new program as a chance to both be able to get more culturally relevant food and start forming some connections outside of their families.
This fits right in with what the West Side Bazaar is all about, a business incubator that understands the importance of community.
 “Our goal as a business incubator, we really want to develop businesses, but we want to make sure that we are developing entrepreneurs that come from our neighborhood,” Doyle said. “Our neighborhoods are only as strong as the communities that make them up.”
The new program will hopefully be bringing many new faces and customers to the West Side Bazaar, a possibility that excites some of the vendors.
Maria and Alain Rodriguez
Maria and Alain Rodriguez owners of Kiosko Latino, a Mexican and Puerto Rican place in the West Side Bazaar are among them. They believe the program will help them expand their restaurant.
The other surrounding food vendors also seemed interested, but Kap Thang from Thang’s Family Restaurant has some reservations. He said that while he thought the program would be good for the community, he is still unsure if the it will help his business.
Once the bazaar does move Doyle hopes to keep the same feeling of crowdedness that is so common in other countries while creating more seating and places for new vendors.
The program is expected to start in either January or February of next year and will be available to all seniors over the age of 60.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Bars, patrons do battle over fake IDs

Jessica Cain attempts to use her fake ID
By Jessica Freda and Meaghan Michel 
Bengal News West Reporters
          When you live in a popular college town with bars left and right, you want to be able to experience them for yourself one by one. However, this could be a difficult task if you have yet to hit the age of 21, which most college students do not do until their junior or senior year.
            In an effort to be able to go out with their older friends, underage college drinkers are attempting to find a way to get into bars without being the legal age. While some bars make it easy for underage drinkers to get in, other bars are not so willing to break the law.
            One place in particular that’s known for not allowing underage college drinkers in is Mister Goodbar, located on Elmwood Avenue.
            Bob Rabb, owner of Mister Goodbar, believes the bar has a good reputation when it comes denying those who are not of age just yet.
            “Our bartenders are TIP certified and our bouncers are New York state security certified. We use scanners, cameras, ID books; so they know how to do their job. They have procedures they can go through to confirm one way or another and once the decision is made they can make as big of a fuss as they want,” Rabb said.
            Jessica Cain, a 20-year-old West Side resident, has been trying to get into bars with her older sorority sisters since she joined her sorority her freshman year.
            "I'm not gonna lie and say that there were times that I wasn't successful in getting into a bar because there definitely were, but there have also been times where I was told that I couldn't come in because I was caught and it was honestly extremely embarrassing," Cain said.
            While it may be typical for underage college drinkers to attempt to get into bars so they can enjoy time with their friends, not every single college student believes that drinking before 21 is a smart idea.
            Evan Glover, a 19-year-old West Side resident believes that the age of 21 is actually still too young for people to be drinking given that not all college students truly understand the consequences of their actions when they drink.
            "This past year I lost my friend from drinking and driving. He was over the age of 21, but still? I question whether or not 21 is still too young being that a lot of drinking and driving accidents and tragedies are from the younger generation," Glover said. 
            The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholismss - ?? revealed that the consequences of underage college drinking affect students, families, and college communities every year on a large scale.
            Research showed that about 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related injuries, including drinking and driving accidents. It also showed that about 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24, experience an alcohol related sexual assault per year.  
            Janice Burns, the program director for the Focus on Consequences: Adolescents program at the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, says that the reason the legal age to drink was raised to 21 was because of the new brain science.

 Janice Burns:

            We know that the brain is still in development until mid 20s, and any alcohol or other substances that are introduced into the body effects the brain and the way that the brain develops, particularly for people under the age of 21,” Burns said.
            Burns believes that a helpful tactic to prevent underage drinking is educating the youth through prevention programs in schools.
            “We've realized the value of prevention programs in the schools. So going in and talking to youth and middle school ages and not to scare them but to explain to them the science and valuing their own brain as far as making good decisions with educating I would say that has been a huge impact,” Burns said.
            While it’s evident that some bars aim to prevent underage college students from drinking and the consequences that can come with it, the question remains unanswered – are ID scanners and statistics enough to make people cautious and aware of their actions?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Credit union gets federal OK, needs $300k

By Troy Licastro and Tony Reyes
Bengal News West Reporters
          The Good Neighbors Federal Credit Union, a proposed credit union on the West Side that is two years into development, received primary federal approval to become a credit union in September, but must still raise $300,000.
          The organizers have started a crowd-funding campaign to raise the money, which will help support a grant application, said  Clinton Parker, a member of VISTA AmeriCorps, one of the organizers.
           The grant application would be to become a CDFI, or a community development financial institution, which is  a federal charter for any organization that’s helping develop a community-based access to capital. If and when the proposed credit union does become a certified CDFI, it can then apply for grants, and those grants will go towards hiring a full-time fundraiser to get the rest of the money. 
          To help in the process of raising money the credit union has established a partnership with PUSH Buffalo, whose main goal is also to help the people of the community that need it the most.
          “It’s something that we think our members can benefit from and people in the neighborhood should have,” Lonnie Barlow, communications director at PUSH said. “Instead of dealing with a big corporate bank, whose bottom line is basically just making money, no real social conscience, we hope that they are successful and could work for the community and grow.” 
          According to the credit union organizers, one in four people on the West Side, Riverside and Black Rock, don’t have access to basic financial services in this area. A credit union would offer a resource to fill the gap. It will protect people from things like predatory financial services, check-cashing services and rent-to-own companies. It will do this by offering all the financial services people need without the high interest rates big banks have, organizers said. 

          The people of the community have responded well to it also.
          “I think this is a great idea,” Betty Cordone, a West Side resident said. “I think it would help people buy homes and fix them up, so there aren’t so many abandoned.” 
          The credit union will serve anyone who lives, works, worships or volunteers anywhere west of Elmwood Avenue from City Hall to Kenmore Avenue and Vulcan Street. Customers are considered "members" and  buy shares in the company for $15 to $20 in order to use the credit union.
          “I think that they can make a big difference on the West Side,” Barlow said. “We started out with a couple of organizers 10 years ago doing our thing on the West Side and look at what PUSH has grown into.”
          The project is still at least two years away from opening its doors if everything goes to plan, and the search for a location is still on, but a location somewhere on Grant Street is the most popular choice as of now. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sweetness 7 awaits liquor license renewal

By Ryan Beiter and Jonny Moran
Bengal News Reporters 
      If you have gone to Sweetness 7 Café, 220 Grant St., recently in hopes of grabbing a beer while relaxing in the upbeat atmosphere, you were most likely told to visit the other location on Parkside Avenue.  
      Sweetness 7 has not been able to serve alcohol since early March, and owner Prish Moran said it is because of a legal matter. 

Prish Moran, on the cafe liquor license:
      Moran said her lawyers have advised her to incorporate her café separately from the rest of her building, which consists of storefronts and a performance space. The move has delayed the renewal of her liquor license, which she's had for two years. 
      Moran owns all the buildings on her block, which she bought for renovation in 2007 for $112,000. Besides the Sweetness 7 building, Moran owns five storefronts on the block, seven apartments and a church that she says she's building into a performance space. 
      Moran's attorneys originally advised her against spending the money to get her café incorporated separately from the rest of the building space. 
     “They’ve been under the same corporation for eight years, and no one ever thought my café would work,” Moran said. "But it’s worked quite well.” 
      The café's inability to serve alcohol at her Grant Street location stemmed from her unknowing of just how complicated the process of branching off from her building was. While Moran said the Liquor Authority has taken longer than expected to pass her application, she expects to be able to serve alcohol again within the next few weeks. 
      “It takes a long time to get a liquor license,” Moran said. “It’s kind of silly, but the law is the law so I didn’t mess around and stopped serving liquor until the transition happens ...It’s like applying for a new license, so the timing was just a bit off. Nothing’s changed with the corporation, but with the way the law’s written, I have to apply as a brand new applicant. “ 
      The Flying Bison Brewing Co. and Community Beer Works stickers on the windows of Sweetness 7 are indicative of Moran’s passion for seeing local business thrive. “We sell only local draft beer,” Moran said. "We sell a lot of it." 
          She said craft beer has been popular with college students, who would often come in and drink a few while working on schoolwork. 
      Moran estimates that a quarter of Sweetness 7's business comes from alcohol sales, but she won't know for sure until the end of tax season. Still, she said, business hasn't changed that much in the weeks since alcohol's absence. 
     Joel Standard, a cook at Sweetness 7, said the café is not typically sought out as a drinking location, but customers appreciate the option. 
     "This isn't a place where people typically come to drink, but sometimes a customer may want a mimosa or bloody Mary with their meal, or a shot of whiskey in their coffee," he said. 
Caffé Aroma, 957 Elmwood Ave., is another local coffee shop that serves beer, wine and liquor. Their alcohol sales closely resemble Sweetness 7's, with a majority of their sales being in craft beer and whiskey for coffee, according to barista Jon Bonini. 
     While she has been able to serve alcohol at her other café, Moran said there will be a slight change coming that will add to their selection.
      "My Parkside location currently has a beer and wine license, but will have a full liquor license before summer," Moran said. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Grant St. bustling again, a shop at a time

Jeanenne Petri owns Westside Stories with her husband Joe
By Amber Rinard
and Dallas Taylor
Bengal News West Reporters
          Grant Street is not just a street, but its own little community.
When you walk down the street, you can smell all the different ethnic foods, hear the sounds coming from the shops, and see the different nationalities and races coming together to shop and work in one area.
             On a two-mile long street, three small stores are starting to revive the area into what it used to be.  A neighborhood.
Westside Stories, Press Raw Food & Juice, and Sweet_ness 7 are rebuilding the neighborhood by establishing a relationship between each other and the customers that regularly shop there.
Jeanenne and Joe Petri, owners of Westside Stories, 205 Grant St., opened the bookstore in June four years ago. Since then, they have been working to enhance the neighborhood to make it a better place.
            The Petris originally chose to live on the West Side, because before they met with their real estate agent   they had coffee at Sweet_ness 7 Café, and loved it so much that they decided to buy whatever house was the closest to it.
            “We chose to open the shop in the neighborhood because we firmly believe that a strong retail corridor really helps to create a vibrant neighborhood,” Jeanenne said. 

Jeanenne Petri, on the value of a neighborhood bookstore:

            Her older customers tell her there used to be bustling shops up and down Grant Street. 
          “A lot of old timers will talk about what an interesting place it was to grow up, and it’s great to see that revival coming back,” Jeanenne said.
            Westside Stories works together with many of the other stores on the street to create a place that is special and valuable.
            Esther Pica, owner of Press Raw Food & Juice, 197 Grant St., is a friend of the Petris.
          “We all tend to look out for each other. Knowing that they’re next door, gives me a sense of comfort,” Pica said.
            The stores on Grant Street also benefit from each other.
 “What makes this little part of Grant Street work is that the bookstore and I, and even Sweet_ness 7, we all share the same customer base,” Pica said.
            Many people discover the bookstore by going to Press Raw Food & Juice, and others discover the restaurant by going to the bookstore.
            “We’re more of a destination,” Pica said. “You pick up your juices; check out the bookstore, you stop for a meal, where as if we were just here isolated by ourselves maybe people could rationalize not making a special trip just to go to one place.”
            Dan Moscov, Manager at Sweetness 7 Café, 220 Grant St., said  businesses benefit from the others' traffic and benefit the community by creating neighborhood jobs.  
            “It’s great for the community to have small businesses,” Moscov said.
            When walking down the street, you can feel the sense of community between the store and the customers. Customers will stop into these stores simply to talk and see what is going on. 
            There is a great vibe that comes from Grant Street. The customers support their local small businesses and the businesses work together to change the West Side into a great community. There are over 40 languages spoken in the area, yet they are all united as one.  
            “We like being someone’s neighborhood bookstore, where they can stop in and see if they can find something interesting to read or something that inspires them,” Petri said.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Elmwood Village hosts holiday celebration

By Laney Hill and Stephanie Vogel
Bengal News West Reporters
            You better watch out, and you better not cry, because Santa Claus is coming to Elmwood Village. This Santa, though, comes with four rules and a green screen.
Kenneth Irwin, better known as Santa Ken, is convinced he’s Santa Claus; he even answers the phone in character. Santa Ken will be on Elmwood Avenue from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Dec. 12 and  Dec. 13 to take pictures and spread holiday cheer for the first Christmas in the Village.
“Twenty years ago people told me I was good at it,” Irwin said. “So now I’m part of a multi-billion dollar business.”  
 Santa Ken’s four rules are simple. One: Each child who visits with him gets one toy. Two: Children should use words like “please” and “thank you”. Three: They need to go to bed on time and brush their teeth. Four: Clean their rooms plus the living room, the dining room and under the couch, because Santa knows that children hide things under there. 
Santa Ken brings with him green screen technology, which is a green wall that kids can stand in front of and get their pictures taken. After that, a background of Santa is inserted into the scene, which allows for timid children to still get a good picture with Santa.
“We call this the no trauma drama zone,” Irwin said. “Some kids get scared of getting their pictures taken with Santa, so this eases kids into it.”
In the past, the Elmwood Village had Open Light Fridays, where each Friday in December there would be a different event, such as tree lighting and caroling. The main motivation behind Christmas in the Village is to celebrate the holidays on one main weekend, while bringing people to the shops and to support local businesses.
 “This is the first year that we’re doing this,” Ashley Smith, community engagement manager for the Elmwood Village Association, said. “We wanted something to add a different amount of interest and atmosphere to the holidays in the Elmwood Village to give people a reason to come here.”
            Each month Elmwood Village shop owners and the Elmwood Village Association meet to
Ashley Ohl of Renw Bath & Body
Ashley Ohl,  of Renew Bath & Body discuss how business and sales are going for the stores. The holidays are an important time for everyone, and this year they are switching from Open Light Fridays to something different.
            “If we could bill it as the catch-all weekend maybe we’ll get more people coming in, and it could be a bigger deal,” Smith said. “So that was the idea for Christmas in the Village.”
            Along with Santa walking through the stores, the businesses on Elmwood will be serving hot chocolate, hanging lights and decorating their windows.
            “We participate every year,” said Sue Marfino, owner of ShoeFly, 801 Elmwood Ave. “This is the first year of being one full weekend, rather than four separate days.”
            Manager of Renew Bath and Body, Ashley Ohl, is excited to participate for the first time in Christmas in the Village, and bring in business.
“We’re looking forward to all the lights being up on Elmwood and getting some new people who don’t always get to come down,” Ohl said. “You know, get some new faces.”
Ashley Ohl, on Christmas in the Elmwood Village:
Phil Kline, composer of Unsilent Night, is scheduled to perform at 7p.m. on Friday, Dec. 12.
“He made this musical piece in the 90s to be played on multiple boomboxes at a time,” Smith said. “It’s to create a moving sound cloud. You’ve got a couple of people playing different tracks that synchronize, and they’ve now adapted it so you can do it on smart phones. They want to have people play it on their smart phones and create a march.”
Throughout the weekend there will be local bands and street musicians playing, and the Lexington Co Op. will be roasting nuts outside and other activities.
“For the community it’s a really cute event,” Smith said. “People really like it.”

Monday, May 12, 2014

Chippewa in transition after under-21 ban

By Fran McCann
Bengal News West Reporter

Chippewa Street, also known as the nightlife district, has about 13 bars and restaurants that welcome thousands of people every week. The area has built its reputation as the hot spot for many people to gather, but many people see it heading in a different direction.
Since the under-21 ban in October 2012 because of underage crimes on Chippewa Street, the district has been trying to find another image. 
            Real estate developer Adam March, who owns The Lodge and buildings 67-79 W. Chippewa St., was one of the lead activists to protest the under-21 ban.
He, along with bar owner Daniel Valentine and University at Buffalo student Colin Miller, filed a lawsuit in late January 2013 against Mayor Byron Brown, Common Councilmembers, Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda and James Comerford Jr., commissioner of permits and inspections. They argued the ban hurt their right to earn a living and restricted their business. 
            “The lawsuit is at a pause right now,” March said. “It went through its initial run but we weren’t seeing any results.”
March said he believes the ban isn’t because of violence by people under 21, but instead because of a lack of police control over the crowd.
            “On any given night we would have 8-10,000 people in our bar and I don’t think the police wanted to deal with the crowds anymore,” he said. “Things will happen when people drink, but in our bar’s existence we have never had one crime occur other than an occasional scuffle. There were never any injuries and we handled the customers very professionally.”
            Thomas Cowan, owner of City Tavern bar at 51 W. Chippewa St.,  said he thinks the ban was a good thing for the street and city as a whole.
            “The bars that participated in the 18-and-up had a good thing going,” he said. “They created a fun and safe place for college kids to go and dance, but then again Chippewa is an entertainment district that was designed for the 21-and-up patrons.” 

Andrew Rechin, head of Security at Bottoms Up, 69 W. Chippewa St.,on what his job involves:

            Cowan said the ban has affected businesses in the area, and “Thursday nights have become a lot quieter.” He said he could see the area slowly starting to go in a different direction.
            “I think the ban was a positive step to rebuilding the entertainment district and in time the street will be back,” he said. “I think we will be more of a restaurant row in the next few years rather than a late night dance club street.”
            With Chippewa starting to rebuild its image as more of a restaurant scene, some might wonder what will happen to the nightlife. March said even though he believes the ban to be “unfair,” he is reinventing his investments. 
            “We’re in the process of investing in restaurants,” March said. “We have the idea of a high-end Japanese restaurant and we’re confident that it, along with whatever other ideas we have, will do well.”