WHEATFIELD – An Islamic group has purchased Suzanne’s Fine Dining, with plans to convert it into a mosque and community activity center.
The offer was unexpected, said Suzanne Guenther, who has owned the restaurant at 2843 Niagara Falls Blvd. for 20 years with her husband, Kevin.
“It just came all of a sudden,” she said.
The restaurant closed Saturday. “We’re just doing our last banquets,” Suzanne said.
The purchasers are led by Mohammad Salem Agwa, a Wheatfield resident, who teaches Arabic as an adjunct professor at Niagara University.
Town Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said Agwa told him he wants to teach peace. “He seems to be a fine gentleman. You take him at his word,” Cliffe said.
Agwa could not be reached to comment, but he is listed in public records as an officer of the Islamic Cultural Center of Western New York. Its purposes are listed in the incorporation documents as the practice and promotion of the Islamic religion, culture and practices and “the promotion of understanding cooperation, and harmony between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples.”
The document, filed April 24, says the center would have its headquarters in Niagara County, but doesn’t say where.
“He wants a banquet hall and teaching center,” Town Attorney Robert J. O’Toole said.
The attorney said there will be no substantial changes to the building, and the banquet hall means food service facilities will continue to be needed. Thus, the planned use conforms to the current one and doesn’t raise any planning or zoning issues.
“It’s just a private transaction between two parties,” O’Toole said.
He said if the property changes to a non-profit status, it would come off the tax rolls, but that hasn’t been determined yet.
According to the Planning Board minutes, “The applicant intends to continue the banquets at this location as well as using the facility for classes for the community. The applicant also intends to lease out the restaurant or use that space for more community activities/services. This community center will be open to the public.”
As for the Guenthers. who have been in the restaurant business for 30 years, they are retiring.
“We’re very lucky, and we’ve met a lot of nice people at the restaurant,” Suzanne said. “I guess it happened at a good time, so we’re going to take advantage of it. Of course, I won’t know what to do with a Saturday off, either, but I’ll figure it out, I guess,” she said with a laugh.
About 30 people worked at Suzanne’s.
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