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Buffalo’s Hofbräuhaus delayed by utility quagmire

Eager Hofbräuhaus fans had hoped to be sipping from giant glass beer steins in a downtown biergarten by now, but construction complications have put a damper on plans to open a location here.

Kevin Townsell, the local franchisee, wanted to open the restaurant by last year, but that was before developers realized a tangle of major utility lines are located directly beneath the restaurant’s intended site.

“It’s very, very complicated. It happens to be the intersection where virtually every utility in existence converges,” said Sam Hoyt, regional president of the Empire State Development Corp. and member of the board of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.

Each of those lines has to be relocated before construction of any kind can happen on the beer hall, but that work has yet to begin.

The site, which lies along Scott Street and between Main and Washington streets, is located near Canalside’s Marriott Courtyard hotel. The site now hosts a patch of asphalt, a strip of grass and two temporary bison statues. Underneath it are sewer, water, National Grid and Verizon utility lines.

“It’s a complex project,” said Eric Recoon, vice president of development and leasing for Benderson Development.

In addition to the complicated logistics of the project is the high cost. Moving the lines is expected to add up to $1.5 million, according to conservative estimates from the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.

The ECHDC is working to make sure that no single entity is burdened with the total cost. Hoyt said he hopes to meet with all the affected parties next week to discuss a way of splitting the bill.

He is also hopeful that some funds from the $18 million federal TIGER grant could be used. The intended beer hall site runs adjacent to the next portion of road slated for development under the Cars Sharing Main Street program.

Optimistically, Hoyt hopes construction could begin by next summer.

“Meanwhile, I wait,” Townsell said.

The Hofbräuhaus franchise will be located on the ground floor of a planned five-story building. The second and third floors of the building will have offices, and the top two floors will have apartments.

Plans call for a 600-seat traditional beer hall, with long wooden tables and benches. An outdoor biergarten will seat another 300 people. The building is patterned after the 400-year-old Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany.

Servers wearing Bavarian-style dirndls and lederhosen will serve Bavarian pretzels and large glass steins of beer.

The menu will mostly feature traditional German dishes, but also will offer some local fare. Musicians will perform live German music every night and many weekday afternoons. The restaurant will serve Hofbräu products imported from Germany.

Townsell owns Shannon Pub in Tonawanda, founded the Buffalo Irish Festival in 1982 and has organized Oktoberfest celebrations, as well as other German festivals and beer tastings around Buffalo.