The beef between Amherst and Grover's Bar & Grill is cooling off.
The town has dropped its claim that the East Amherst restaurant illegally lets customers and employees park on town property.
Amherst officials backed down after the restaurant's attorney provided evidence that Grover's received Town Board permission in 2000 to park vehicles there.
The town still objects to the placement of the restaurant's garbage receptacle and to an awning Grover's installed along Transit Road – both sides are working out those lingering issues – and owner Georgina Hartman remains frustrated the town's legal action threatened her with up to $1 million in fines.
"It was total harassment," Hartman said Thursday.
Grover's, at 9160 Transit Road, draws fans of its burgers from all over. Hartman and her mother bought the restaurant in 1988.
The dispute with the town began several years ago when Grover's installed a $5,000 awning on the front of the restaurant to limit sunlight entering through the east-facing windows. Grover's put in place two metal poles to stabilize the awning, and the town accused the restaurant of improperly building a permanent structure.
Hartman defended the awning to officials in Amherst's Building Department, and she said nothing further happened until this spring. That's when Amherst cited Grover's for encroaching on town right-of-way property that is part of the former "Peanut Line" railroad corridor.
Hartman said Grover's has used the property for employee parking as long as she's owned the restaurant, and predecessor restaurants on the site did the same.
Grover's has about 30 spaces on its own land for its customers. But the property line cuts through the garbage container and seven neighboring spaces, and 10 or 15 vehicles park north of there in spaces that are entirely on the right-of-way at 679 Paradise Road.
When Hartman ignored letters sent in August and September, the town brought legal action, asking a judge to eject the restaurant from the right-of-way property and order its owner to pay $1,000 each day the restaurant remains – up to $1 million, though Amherst officials said they preferred a settlement.
However, Hartman had paperwork showing the Town Board had approved the restaurant's request to use the land for parking. Her attorney, Jeff Palumbo, said town officials apologized and asked Town Justice Geoffrey Klein to dismiss the claim, and he granted the request.
"Had I not had that piece of paper, they never would have dropped this," Hartman said.
Town Attorney Stanley Sliwa blamed inadequate record-keeping for the oversight. He said the garbage receptacle and the awning remain open issues.
Palumbo said Klein has given the restaurant time to work with the state Department of Transportation on a permit that would allow the awning to remain.