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It’s hard to prevent shootings at restaurants, experts say

The shooting Friday night at Anchor Bar represents the worst fears of a business owner.

Someone walks in off the street armed with a gun and a grudge, and injures or kills employees or customers.

The prevalence of gun violence has increased those fears and led more businesses to prepare for such incidents.

“It’s huge,” said Stephen Bell, senior partner and director of public affairs, crisis and reputation management at Eric Mower + Associates. “This is the No. 1 fear now for companies.”

Many businesses have taken steps to make it more difficult to access their offices. But a restaurant like the Anchor Bar can’t do that.

“Restaurants are particularly vulnerable. Patrons are walking in and out. There is a back door in the kitchen. It’s almost impossible to make it secure,” said Bell.

Buffalo police described the incident as a targeted shooting in the kitchen of the popular restaurant on Main and East North streets.

Both victims were restaurant employees. Police identified the victim of the fatal shooting as Freddie Dizon, 32. Ray Hogue, 36, who was wounded by the gunfire, was treated in Erie County Medical Center and released. The shooter was still at large, police said Saturday.

The Anchor Bar temporarily closed but is expected to reopen for business at noon Sunday. The restaurant also put out a statement via a public relations firm, Tipping Point Communications.

“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the Anchor Bar employees, one who was fatally wounded and the other who was wounded,” the statement began.

Bell said the restaurant did the right thing by closing, a move that gave the staff some time to calm down after the frightening experience and grieve for their colleagues.

“It sounds like they are handling it just right,” he said.

As for the Anchor Bar’s reputation, Bell said it’s unlikely to take a hit from an incident that was not random and that likely could not have been prevented.

Earl Wells, president of E3 Communications, also said he doesn’t expect the shooting to have long-term consequences on its ability to attract customers.

The restaurant’s famed connection to chicken wings makes it a draw for tourists, and the business has built on that identity with multiple franchised locations.

“It’s very tragic, but I don’t think it will have any long-term impact,” Wells said.

The restaurant sits in what has become a growing neighborhood, with new development on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Mayor Byron W. Brown stressed the targeted nature of the crime in his commentary about it.

Wells said he thought the Anchor Bar responded the right way, by closing for a day before its planned reopening.

“Obviously they’ve got to be in shock,” he said. “It’s very traumatic. And I also think they’re doing it out of respect for the worker.”

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