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ON THE BRINKS COBBLESTONE DISTRICT TO GET FIRST RESTAURANT

Buffalo's Cobblestone District is about to get its first new development -- a grain elevator-themed eatery called Brinks Tap Room & Bakery.

The $500,000 project is slated for 49 Illinois St., right across the street from the parking entrance of the Marine Midland Arena. Buffalo entrepreneur Dennis Brinkworth III said he's been developing plans for Brinks ever since the arena project was announced.

"It's a section of the city that has amazing potential and in mind," Brinkworth said. "I guess I'll be kind of a pioneer being the first new business down there, but I don't see a downside."

Brinkworth is no stranger to the risks of the bar and restaurant business, coming from a local family whose name is synonymous with successful operations.

His father, Dennis Brinkworth Jr., once had a stable of 16 operations around the city. While in his early 20s, Brinkworth developed the concept for and operated the highly successful Colter Bay restaurant at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Allen Street in the city's Allentown neighborhood. That business, which debuted in 1987, is still going strong today.

Brinkworth's sister, Molly, runs the Buffalo Bar and Grill, which was formerly known as the Pink Flamingo, on Allen Street in the city, and his brother, John, operates the House O' Quinn, on Chippewa Street.

"I guess it's kind of in our genes. This is something I've given a lot of thought, and feel this is the right project at the right time," Brinkworth said. "The goal is to offer something that draws customers not just on event days, but everyday. In the planning, I pretend the arena isn't even there."

For the past six years, Brinkworth has worked as a regional manager for the Boston Beer Co., maker of Samuel Adams label brews, covering a large portion of the Northeastern U.S. and Ontario. He quit that post two weeks ago to give his full-time attention to getting Brinks up and running.

Under the current timetable, construction will be under way by September with hopes of a late 1997 opening.

Brinkworth is in the process of finalizing financing for the $500,000 project, a mix of funding which is expected to include private, bank and public development dollars. Those last pieces are expected to be in place by the end of August to allow an early fall start to construction.

Brinkworth plans to borrow from the legacy of Buffalo's grain milling heyday and the regional beer and wine industries to create an unique and exciting atmosphere that will draw patrons not only on arena event nights, but for lunches and casual suppers, as well.

Plans for the 5,000-square-foot business include a small bakery with a sandwich takeout counter and a European-style cafe section at the front of the building. The main restaurant will offer a moderately priced menu of sandwiches, pizza and burgers for lunch and evening diners, priced in the $4 to $9 range. More elaborate fare will be served on weekend and event nights, with a seasonal variety of entrees in the $9 to $18 price range.

The bar will feature a selection of 21 microbrews on tap, along with some 40 varieties of wine.

Beer and wine tasting seminars are also planned. The second-floor of the former machine shop building will be converted to a trio of banquet rooms.

Building owner John McKendry said he's excited at the prospect of giving Brinks a home in the Cobblestone District.

"We've all be wondering who would be the first in here to take advantage of this rediscovered neighborhood. Dennis has a lot of experience and moxie for a young guy, so if anybody can make it work, he's the guy to pull it off," McKendry said.

While he said he's not fearful of his pioneer status in the arena neighborhood, Brinkworth said he knows his business will be the focus of other entrepreneurs who have been checking out other Cobblestone District properties.

"I'd hope Brinks will be the spark that ignites business down here. I'd love to have some company, other restaurants, some retail shops. Competition would be a great thing," he said.

The building previously was the construction management office for the $127 million arena project.

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