By Joshua Maloni
Late Wednesday afternoon, the Lewiston Event Center posted the following message on its Facebook page:
“News Release: The Lewiston event center is back on the market. Here’s another chance to purchase The Lewiston Event Center. Please reach out to Jim Carminati 716-553-6634 from Waterborne real estate.
“We appreciate the business of our patrons and friends that continue to come out and support us.
Speaking to NFP, co-owner Emery Simon said, “The initial contract didn't go to fruition; so, therefore, it is up for sale again. And we're looking for prospective buyers.”
In mid-September, developer and multi-family real estate investor Vick Singh Ghotra announced his intention to purchase the property at 845 Cayuga St., and convert it into a climate-controlled self-storage facility.
After two rounds of meetings and proposal presentations with the Village of Lewiston Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Board, Ghotra was informed self-storage was potentially not allowed in a district labeled as B-1 (general business, multiple family, townhouse).
He and his counsel, Corey A. Auerbach of Barclay Damon, presented their case to the Zoning Board of Appeals on Nov. 1. Ultimately, the ZBA voted, by a 4-1 margin, that self-storage is not permissible under municipal code Section 9, District Regulations, D.1.b.g.
Following the meeting, Ghotra said, “I'm going to discuss that with my attorney and take it from there.”
NFP reached out to Ghotra, who declined comment, and to Auerbach, who did not reply.
Simon said it’s not for him, nor his business partner, Harold Hibbard, to determine future site usage.
“There's potential for many different things to go in there, but I can't control (it),” he said.
As for prospective buyers, “We're at $2 million, and we're taking offers right now,” Simon said.
He acknowledged public comments in favor of keeping the multi-story site an event center.
Simon noted he and Hibbard would consider all reasonable offers, whether a potential buyer seeks to keep the bowling alley as is, turn the building into self-storage, or do something else.
However, “We would like to see somebody either take the bowling alley, and take it to the next level, or come up with a use that’s more community service,” Simon said.
“Here's an opportunity for somebody to do something positive with the bowling alley, the Lewiston Event Center,” he added. “Here's a new opportunity for somebody to jump in and do something positive with the building that would be more accepted to the community.”
Simon explained, “We've put a lot of money into it, and a lot of sweat and tears into it.”
He said work actually began right before he and Hibbard purchased the former Frontier Lanes in 2012.
“We believed that the community needs a community event center,” Simon said. “And that's where we got the ‘Event Center’ from. We believe that the community needed an event center.
“The first thing that we did was we changed all the lighting and all the ceiling, because the ceiling was completely soaked and saturated with smoke. I think there was eight smoke ejectors in the building that we took down. We redid all the lighting; there was 39 light fixtures on the exterior of the building. There was one light fixture that worked. So, before we even owned the building, we spent $50,000 in changing the lighting in the building, just to upgrade the lighting to make it safe.
“We put a $30,000 camera system in it, right out of the gate, so people would feel safe. … We wanted to make the event center clean, safe, well-lit. We had LED lights when nobody had LED lights. We changed the interior lights right out of the gate. We put a new ceiling in, right out of the gate. We probably put $200,000 into plumbing to change the drains, because the drains were backing up on the floor. We put up $100,000 into the draft system, to make the draft system better. We put $150,000 into rebuilding the bar. … We've got $200,000 into the roofing system. We replaced two-thirds of the roof. We put $50,000 into the HVAC system. We put $200,000 into upgrading the scoring system. …
“Each year, Harold and I put over $200,000 into the place. We're just trying to get our money out right now, because I want to retire.”
Acknowledging traditional bowling and bowling leagues are a tougher sell these days, Simon said, “We switched gears and started making fun leagues. If you're there for the fun, we're the place to be.”
“We have excellent food,” he said. “We have phenomenal wings, phenomenal food. We have a great bar atmosphere. We're doing a lot of things to try and make it a positive thing in there.”