The former Elmwood Village home of now-closed restaurants Toro Tapas Bar and Faherty’s will soon be occupied by a new eatery run by a veteran restaurateur after developer Rocco Termini takes control of the complex.
Termini, principal of Signature Development Buffalo, has agreed to buy the buildings at 490-492 Elmwood Avenue – between Utica Street and Hodge Avenue – from former owner and restaurant operator Nick Kotrides. Neither Termini nor Kotrides would disclose the purchase price, but the deal is expected to close in a couple of weeks.
“I got a good deal, and I like Elmwood, and I decided I’d make a real estate play out of it,” Termini said. “For me, it’s just a real estate play.”
Termini said he is negotiating with Mike Shatzel, an owner of Cole’s, Blue Monk, and Liberty Hound, to open a completely new restaurant in the building. He didn’t reveal details, but Termini said “it would be nothing like it is now.”
The plan is to develop a brewery in the Faherty’s space, Shatzel said Monday. For the new place, he’ll be looking for a brewer offering distinctive, even experimental brews, he said.
This would be the sixth Buffalo restaurant that Termini, primarily a real estate developer, is associated with. Besides the restaurants in his Hotel@the Lafayette and Foundry Suites projects, he also owns the buildings housing Dog E Style at 128 Genesee St., Tappo at 338 Ellicott St., Seabar at 475 Ellicott, and Toutant at 437 Ellicott, and is involved with running Dog E Style, Tappo and the Lafayette.
Kotrides, meanwhile, had to close the two restaurants, along with Empire Grill, as a condition for receiving a license to operate his newest venture, Niagara Distilling Co. Under federal laws dating back to the Prohibition Era, Kotrides cannot hold both a retail liquor license and a distillery license, so he got out of the restaurant business and sold the building to focus on Niagara Distilling, which opened for business last weekend. He previously sold Empire Grill.
“It was frustrating, but I’m glad to see the properties are going into the hands of someone with a good track record,” Kotrides said. “I’m ready to focus my energies 100 percent on this.”
Kotrides teamed up with partner Eric Heuser, a master distiller, who spent 10 years making hard liquor in Germany. The new business, located at 459 Ellicott, has already started making vodka from organic corn, under the brand name “1812.” That’s designed to harken back to Buffalo’s history and the prominence of the War of 1812, when the British burned the city to the ground. Kotrides noted that the region played an “instrumental” role in the war.
“The war of 1812 was a pivotal war for Buffalo,” he said. “So we thought we’d tied a little history with Buffalo being rebuilt and the resurgence we’re experiencing in the city.”
The distillery receives its organic corn from a farmer, who provides about 15 to 20 tons each month. Niagara then distills, ferments, bottles and packages the vodka. Kotrides said it takes about five to six days to produce a bottle of vodka from organic corn, and about 3,000 gallons of vodka is fermenting at any given time.