The BEAST - Buffalo's Best Fiend........www.buffalobeast.com.............Issue 59 9/30/04--10/14/04
Much Ado About Pano's
Pano's restaurant has been an essential component of the Elmwood strip for as long as we can remember. We miss the tiny greasy spoon it once was, but the new, larger, fancier establishment it becamestill serves the most satisfying post-drinking-binge cuisine available in the area.
As you've probably noticed, the restaurant and its owner, Pano Georgiadis, have come under fire recently for their plans to level a vacant house next door to the establishment, largely spurred by a misinformed editorial by Artvoice's Jamie Moses which erroneously claimed the plan was to pave the entire lot over for more parking. An online petition to save the empty "Atwater house," threatening Pano with a boycott, has been signed by many notable Buffalonians, from writer Bruce Jackson to "writer" Mary Kunz. A protest of the planned demolition attracted at least a hundred members of the intellectual leisure class. No matter that there are hundreds of more valid and pressing concerns for Buffalo; this was happening in their neighborhood.
As to why a rundown, empty house was more vital to these people's enjoyment of the colorful neighborhood than a thriving eatery, we can only guess. Many who signed the petition even suggested that Pano relocate his establishment if he needed to expand, apparently arguing that two vacant buildings would better serve the community and encourage pedestrian traffic. Some were less kind and simply stated that Pano's should be torn down.
Well, we wanted to clear things up a little, so we decided to get the other side of the story. We know Pano, but frankly he scares the crap out of us since the thankfully distant days when we dish-dogged overnights at his restaurant. So we decided to ask his son Niko about the debacle.
What's the history here?
We bought the house in 1996. We weren't planning at that time to demolish the house, but at the same time we wanted to know that if it ever came to it we could. You have to remember we had only just opened that location and business was not what it is now. As a rule of thumb you should always buy your neighbor if you can. It increases the value of both properties.
We went to City hall and checked with the Preservation Board, and were told that it was not a protected property, and that it held no historical value. Had we been told otherwise we would have never purchased it.
So, you guys were never planning on making it a parking lot? How'd that rumor get out there?
Never. And I'm not sure how that started. We are very protective of the parking we do already have, for obvious reasons, and perhaps people just couldn't imagine we had anything else in mind. The truth is our plan all along has been to extend the patio north along the sidewalk with an entirely new structure that will offer a lot to our customers and our neighbors. The plans are looking very good right now, and I think when they are made public it will go a long way in drying some misguided tears.
We've never heard this place referred to as the "Atwater House" before this last month. Have you?
This is an insult to my family and me. Nobody ever called it that up until two weeks ago. Atwater sold his house decades ago. The Atwaters haven 't been paying the property tax, insurance, and maintenance bills on the house. It's textbook propaganda. This is the Georgiadis House--for now. I commend these groups' organizational skills, and I wish I had the time to do the same sorts of things they do, like meetings, protests, fliers and petitions. Unfortunately, we're busy running a restaurant, one that that I think has contributed a lot to the character of the Elmwood Village.
How are you guys planning on responding to all the hubbub?
We don't really need to, but we have done a few interviews like this. Mostly it has been others-TV, radio-wanting our response. To those who are so in love with this old structure we have offered the house for free, with a $15,000 bonus to move it to another lot.
One aspect I think a lot of people are missing is how bad the house is on the inside. Way back before we bought it the house was gutted. It is now three units, two commercial downstairs and one three-bedroom apartment upstairs. The whole thing is modern inside. No leaded glass, ornate woodwork, or antique fireplaces here. I actually lived there myself for four years. I have a lot of fond memories there and I will be a little sad myself to see it go. It was at one time a nice house, but it hasn't been for quite sometime. Nothing lasts forever.
Before that house was there, someone had to knock down trees. Why didn't we protest that? This is progress in a city that needs it bad. If we adhered to preservation logic, we would all still be living in caves. We love our block and have a huge interest in keeping it alive.
Has the "boycott" affected business?
Not at all. This past month has been great for us. We are really looking forward to the increased seating; we hate to make people wait to sit.
Isn't a vacant building more of an eyesore than even a parking lot would be?
You would think so. Many have asked why we don't rent it out anymore. Well, it's just not that big inside. I don't see how a person with the drive to open his or her own business would want to do it there; It's a shoebox. If you don't believe me, come by and I'll show you. Also we are restaurant people, not landlord people. We're just not interested in doing that anymore. We are going to put the land to better use. We'll gain maybe 7-8 new parking spots from this, but they won't be visible from the street, and will mostly come from diverting the current driveway, not from the demolition.
Won't a bigger restaurant overtax the kitchen?
We expanded our kitchen last summer in anticipation of this. We did it by shrinking our parking lot. People complained about that, too
© 2004 The Beast