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Adding live music to auto shop building has neighbors revved up

Get an oil change or tuneup – and live entertainment and a glass of wine – all in the same building.

Charles Anderson, who owns the building that contains Viktor Garage auto repair at 63 Military Road, is converting the back of the 13,000-square-foot site into a music studio to host live bands with ticketed admission.

About 5,000 square feet already have been turned into the Imagine Recording Studios to record music and videos. The live music venue will occupy about 2,500 square feet, Anderson said.

A photographer and videographer, Anderson said a lot of his customers just want to have a place to record and perform live for their followers.

"These people need some place to do their music and make a dollar at the door," he said of the venue he hopes to open by summer.

The Common Council approved the plan recently with a few stipulations:

  • The approval is only good for one year;
  • Only beer and wine can be sold, no hard liquor; and
  • The live music is allowed Sundays through Thursdays until 10 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays until midnight.

Food will not be prepared in the building but will be offered from local vendors, Anderson said. The space will hold 100 to 150 seats, and some parking is available on site.

"It's going to be a beautiful place where musicians can perform and people can spend the evening listening to professional musicians play," Anderson said this week. "My heart is in music, and Buffalo has good musical talent."

Venue owner Charles Anderson takes a break from sweeping up sound-proofing debris in the live music venue that will open this summer in the Military Road facility. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

But during a public hearing on the project, some neighbors and other residents voiced their concerns about the plan.

James Marranca, who lives at 77 Military, was worried about parking and noise associated with the live music, as well as with the alcohol and parking problems in front of the building. He told  Council members last month that he was worried about the venue's potential customers and didn't "want to be chasing them out at night."

Lenora Darden, pastor of Abundant Life and Christ Ministries Church on Grant Street east of the site, also had objections. She said a Holy Cross Head Start program operates out of the church’s property, which extends from Grant Street to Military Road, and the church’s playground is nearby.

Her concern was that the live music venue would exacerbate existing crime problems. When music and alcohol are provided, it’s just another bar, she said, and the community has enough of those. She said there already were problems with vandalism as well as "crime and gun violence in the Black Rock community" and that "if you walk around the block of our church, you'll see five bars and a liquor store. We already have enough liquor being sold in that neighborhood."

But Anderson said the venue will be an event center that will only be open during musical events at the property.

"It's not my vision to open a neighborhood bar. We are not a bar that will be open every day. We’re opening a music center," said Anderson, who also will be able to record the live performances. "We want to provide a place where musicians can book a night and charge at the door for the general public."

Anderson also pointed out that the commercial building has parking for 35 cars and that his property will have more sound retention than bars in the neighborhood. It will have at least six bass traps to keep the sound inside the live music space.

"It is probably the best acoustic treatments of any live performance room," said Anderson, who also plays guitar, writes music and is an acoustical engineer. He recently put up new fencing around the building and installed security cameras outside.

North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. acknowledged some of the concerns, but believes the new venue will enhance the neighborhood and complement the nearby Sportsmen's Tavern and other restaurants.

Anderson has a "stellar" background, said Golombek – whose district contains the property – and he suggested that the owner work with the church and neighbors to let them know when events are coming up. In addition, Anderson will invite residents and neighbors to tour the facility, Golombek said.

"There’s ways we can keep an eye on the property owner and make sure certain things are not going on there," Golombek said.

Lovejoy District Councilman Richard A. Fontana has known Anderson for 30 years and said the businessman would be very receptive to any concerns that residents may have.

"To be honest, I have nothing but the utmost confidence in him," Fontana said.

After the one-year term expires, Anderson must return to the Council to get approval to continue running the music venue, which gives city officials time to see how the business is operating in the neighborhood.

"I believe it will be a very, very good business over there," Golombek said.

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