Savarino Companies

Sports Bar & Restaurant Coming to Cobblestone

The Buffalo News

2/8/2008

Buffalo's Cobblestone District is getting a new bar/restaurant player this spring.

Benchwarmer's Sports Bar & Grill has plans to open at 30 Mississippi St., just around the corner from the HSBC Arena, in April.

"We looked at several locations around the area, and kept coming back to the Cobblestone neighborhood," said Benchwarmer's co-developer Quinn O'Brien.

O'Brien's resume includes five years managing the nearby Cobblestone Bar, on South Park Avenue, and a food and beverage management stint at Seneca Niagara Falls Casino & Hotel. He is teaming with Shawn Bailey, whose namesake bar, Bailey's, on Delaware Avenue in Kenmore was demolished to make way for a Walgreens in 2006.

"Both Shawn and I agree that Buffalo needs a true sports bar. There are lots of bars where you can watch sports on tv, but no place in the city that's completely dedicated to sports," O'Brien said.

The centerpiece of the allsports/all-the-time Benchwarmer's will be a sized-down jumbotron, with sports viewing on four 40-inch screens. A sports ticker will run along the bottom to update fans on the latest scores from the sports world.

If that doesn't charge up the sports-crazed, O'Brien and Bailey have come up with a very unusual bar feature- a mock electric chair, which will allow fans to shock a replica of an opposing team player.

"We'll have a life-size, animated figure sitting in the chair wearing the opponent's jersey. When the Sabres, Bills or Bisons score, we'll flip the switch," O'Brien said. "It's meant to be in good fun."

The sports-themed decor will also include display cases filled with a changing array of local and national sports memorabilia.

Benchwarmer's 134-seat restaurant will serve up a menu of all-american foods, with a core selection of hamburgers, cheese burgers, and steak and chicken sandwiches.

"We're not out to be hoitytoity. We want it to be comfortable as a neighborhood bar and for the game night crowd," O'Brien said.

Sam Savarino, whose Savarino Cos. owns and recently renovated the long-idle food terminal site where Benchwarmer's will be located, said he's looking forward to adding another piece to his mixed-use puzzle.

"This fills in the last piece on that block. It's pretty exciting to get to this point in just a couple of years," Savarino said. "These guys have well-developed business and marketing plans and have a real good shot at success."

Savarino acquired the one-block string of derelict industrial and commercial buildings on Mississippi Street, between South Park Avenue and Perry Street, in 2005. To date, he's filled the four-story building at 26 Mississippi St. with a mixed of office tenants, and W.J. Morrissey's, an Irish Pub-themed bar and eatery, occupies half of the one-story food terminal next door, at 30 Mississippi St.

Savarino is now partnering with Buffalo's Avalon Development to convert a former warehouse at Mississippi and Perry Streets into a mix of class-a office space, apartments and first-floor commercial space. The Empire State Development Corp. and Erie County Industrial Development Agency will move their offices to 95 Perry St. this spring.

by Sharon Linstedt



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