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County panel wants information on canal wine store

The city is continuing its effort to obtain a $200,000 Niagara River Greenway grant for a wine store, but more delays cropped up late Monday.

A Niagara County Legislature committee that holds the purse strings for the county's Greenway share asked the city for more information about plans for the Canalside Wine Emporium, a private business specializing in local food and wine, to be located in a city-owned building on Canal Street.

The proposal has failed twice at Greenway Commission meetings, but its actions are only advisory. The Niagara County Legislature can send a project to the Host Communities Standing Committee, which has the final say on Niagara County projects.

The chairman of the Legislature's ad hoc Greenway Committee, Michael A. Hill, said he wants a requirement that all wineries on the Niagara Wine Trail will have a fair chance at sales in the store, even though the Winery at Marjim Manor would be operating the store and using its liquor license there.

"We are concerned about equal showcasing of wines," said Hill, R-Hartland.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the city has support letters for the project from eight wineries so far. He said a rotation system for displays of the local wines would be worked out.

"There's [State Liquor Authority] rules that prohibit Marjim Manor from displaying them all at once, or it becomes a liquor store," Tucker said. But all local wines would be in stock at all times, the mayor said.

Hill also said the committee wants to know what would happen to the Greenway money if the store were to go out of business. He said the contract would include "clawback" provisions to recover the money.

Tucker said as far as he is concerned, the grant would be to the building, not the store.

"I think their concern is, if they're giving public money to something like that, after I leave here, some mayor might sell it for a buck," Tucker said.

Hill said talks must be held between Assistant County Attorney R. Thomas Burgasser and Lockport Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano to iron out the contract.

Tucker said he thought the alterations could be made in a month; Hill wasn't so sure.

But Tucker pointed out, "There's no rush. This business isn't going to open until next spring anyway."

Hill said once his committee passes the deal, it will come up for a vote of the full Legislature before heading to the eight-member Host Communities panel for final action.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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