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NFTA DEAL COULD MEAN REOPENING OF SHOOTERS NIGHTSPOT, MARINA SPLIT PLANNED, SOURCES SAY

Shooters could be reopening this spring.

A deal is in the works to reopen the popular waterfront nightspot, which closed last month because of cash flow problems.

Now the NFTA, which owns the property, is close to a deal with the new partnership for the restaurant, according to sources within the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

Richard T. Swist, the authority's executive director, will recommend to the board of commissioners Monday a plan that will separate the restaurant from the marina aspect of the waterfront project.

The move would allow owner EDB Inc. and new partner Lawrence H. Reger to concentrate on the restaurant, while the NFTA would seek public money for waterfront improvements. That, in turn, would make private investment in the marina more attractive.

"My hope is that on Monday we'll get approval to move toward detailed negotiations with the EDB interests," Swist said. "The approach we're talking about is probably workable."

Swist would not provide details, but the idea of splitting the restaurant and marina has been seen as the best way to restructure the Shooters lease with EDB, which closed the popular restaurant on Nov. 19.

A spokesman for Reger later said separating the two entities and relieving the owners of the costly marina project was the only way Shooters could survive and also would help avoid a lengthy legal battle.

"EDB hasn't accepted all the numbers, but they have accepted the concept," Swist said. "I think we're in the ballpark."

But at least one person who has submitted a proposal to take over the complex says he is still interested -- whether it involves just the marina or in combination with the restaurant. David Bigelow, who submitted the runner-up development plan in 1988, said he still wants to be considered.

Some commissioners have questioned the propriety of significantly restructuring the lease and reawarding it to EDB principal Jeffrey J. Davis and his new partner, Reger. But most also have indicated that, if it is legal, they will support the move in an effort to avoid litigation and get the restaurant operating again.

Sources also say the restructured deal will call for substantially higher rents to be paid by Shooters to the authority in return for its release from the marina commitment. It is also expected that the NFTA would ask the City of Buffalo and the Horizons Waterfront Commission for financial and planning help with the marina project.

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