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Editorial: Labatt, Pegula partnership adds fizz to Cobblestone District

Labatt USA will soon become part of the Buffalo renaissance, with the Pegulas playing a large role.

That splash comes in the form of the company’s announcement that it will open a flagship restaurant and small test brewery called the John Labatt House in the Cobblestone District as part of a project by Pegula Sports and Entertainment.

The plan is to redevelop a five-story warehouse on Perry Street near KeyBank Center into the place-to-be for beer drinkers – apparently, Buffalonians drink more Labatt beer than in any other city in the United States. The sky is apparently the limit for the company and the Pegulas, who continue to invest in Buffalo and give back to the community.

The Labatt plan is to make the new digs a “destination within the City of Buffalo,” according to the company’s general manager.

Labatt USA is the Buffalo-based importer of the Canadian beer brand. It employs 56 people locally in its offices in Fountain Plaza. It moved there in 2007 with 18 employees from Norwalk, Conn., citing the importance of Buffalo to its sales.

This latest announcement demonstrates the company’s desire to further that investment and by associating with a top-tier local business.

Since purchasing the Buffalo Sabres in 2011 and the Buffalo Bills three years later, Terry and Kim Pegula have become official hometown heroes. They provided stability for the Sabres and retained the Bills, who might possibly have left town. They doubled down on their investment by spending millions of their own dollars building and developing HarborCenter, the hotel and entertainment center that is a destination for budding hockey players, their families and other visitors to the area.

Now the Pegulas, along with other developers, have set their sights on the Cobblestone District. Labatt will be the anchor tenant in Pegula Sports and Entertainment’s redevelopment of the Hi-Temp Fabrication building at 79 Perry into retail, commercial and residential space as it relocates its headquarters from Fountain Plaza to the reconfigured facility.

Details are scant right now – estimated total cost is not yet available – but the first two floors may cost more than $10 million, according to the Pegulas’ chief operating officer. The first phase is expected to be completed by the fall of 2018, starting with the office space.

The Cobblestone District is once again coming into its own. Developers have either entered or are considering the emerging market. Mayor Byron W. Brown was quoted saying that he has tallied more than $635 million in development in the district since 2012.

Pegula Sports and Entertainment has its corporate offices under a lease at the Fairmont Creamery, which is near the Hi-Temp building. Officials were mum on whether the Pegulas might move their own company or the Sabres team offices.

The development of that building with Labatt USA as the anchor and Buffalonians as the testers and influencers in new beer development for Labatt adds a tasty dimension to the rebirth of the Cobblestone District.

At Labatt's flagship brewery, Buffalo drinkers will influence new brews

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