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Funding OK'd for 2nd Calieri restaurant Lockport venture gets agency go-ahead

The owner of a popular restaurant in the city is to open a second one in the heart of downtown, primarily with public funding.

Peter Calieri, owner of the Village Eatery on Davison Road, was approved for a $350,000 financing package last week by Greater Lockport Development Corp., the city-run development agency.

Calieri said the total investment in his new restaurant in Ulrich City Centre, 80 Main St., will be about $500,000.

"We're hoping the project goes forward. There are still a few hurdles we have to get over, minor ones," Calieri said Saturday. If that is done, he expects the new business to open in April and create about 30 jobs.

The Village Eatery, an Italian-themed restaurant, will remain open. "That's my baby," said Calieri, a Clarence resident. About 40 people work at the Eatery, which has been open for 28 years.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said the project will combine a restaurant and a nightclub, offering live music.

David L. Ulrich, landlord of City Centre, said Calieri's new business means that four of the seven storefronts on the Main Street side of the project are spoken for. He said all six of the spaces facing Walnut Street will be leased by February.

"I think Peter will do a great job of opening up a fine restaurant. He has a great track record," Ulrich said.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker, chairman of the development agency, said the financing package includes a combination of loans and grants.

The city received state grant funding in 2005 for a City Centre Tenant Incentive Program. Tucker described it as "discretionary mon ey" controlled by Ulrich, although it is officially allocated by the agency board.

Under terms announced for the program when it was approved in 2005, five-eighths of every allocation is a loan that must be repaid, because five-eighths of the funding to start the pool came from the development agency's own funds. The remainder of each award is a deferred loan that does not have to be repaid if the business stays in City Centre for three years.

Ottaviano said that there is also an allocation from the downtown Essential Goods and Services Program, another deferred-loan program, as well as a direct $100,000 loan to Calieri from the development agency.

Ulrich said he would not call Calieri an "anchor tenant" for City Centre.

"We're not a mall," Ulrich said. "We think all our tenants are equal. All our tenants are anchor tenants because they're all a piece of the master puzzle."

Ottaviano said his understanding was that Calieri was investing $100,000 of his own money. Ulrich said he is also "contributing resources" to the new restaurant, but he would not say how much.

Tucker said Calieri gave a personal guarantee for all the loans he received. "He certainly is proven," Tucker said. "Restaurants are difficult, to begin with. If anyone can do it, he's the guy."

The mayor said that this is the development agency's first major involvement in City Centre, since the city itself gave Ulrich nearly $1 million to get the project off the ground in 2004.

Tucker said, "Restaurants are risky, but you have to take a leap of faith if you want to encourage development downtown. There's no point in building the building if you're not going to put anyone in it."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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