Local Matters

Community Sponsors

Cristina's

August 24, 2010 - 10:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Cristina's.

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At least a half dozen local nonprofits showed up for an open house this afternoon at the former Cristina's Restaurant and Lounge building on Ellicott Street.

Owner Chuck Brumsted says a total of 15 groups have contacted him about a possible donation of the fire-damaged property.

Brumsted, who's still in Florida, wanted to give nonprofit leaders a chance to see the site, taking stock of both its potential and the work that needs to be done to fix it up.

Genesee ARC, GCASA and GCC were among the groups represented today.

For Genesee ARC and GCASA, both organizations are looking at a potential business location to give clients a chance to get work and entrepreneurial experience. 

Maryann Arena from the GCC theater program said she was there to check out the possibility of a downtown theater location. It could give students a chance to learn about a variety of theater production techniques -- bringing more young people downtown in the process.

Pam La Grou, representing GCASA said the site might give her agency's clients a chance to learn how to start and run a business, perhaps a coffeehouse.

"We're just in the exploratory phase," she said.

For Genesee ARC, the location represents the chance to open a retail location for the products the agency's clients produce, from pet beds to baked goods.

"We're always looking for more space," said ARC's Donna Saskowski.

The property obviously needs a lot of work to become something any organization could occupy, and all of the non-profit representatives said that's certainly a consideration before deciding to make a formal application to get ownership.

Saskowski said that Genesee ARC also realizes there are a lot of resources in the community to help reduce costs, such as possibily using the property as an opportunity for construction students at BOCES to practice their trade.

"We certainly have to invest and that is the give-and-take," Saskowski said. "We have to look at the cost per square foot to remodel. It would be an investment. And could this be an investment that we could free up other facilities, or turn another facility over, perhaps that we’re leasing or something like that. It certainly takes a lot of study."

Brumsted said today that given the range of potential applicants for the property, "It's going to be a tough choice."

August 20, 2010 - 7:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Cristina's, Latina's, code enforcement.

Nonprofits which might want to donate to the former Cristina's Restaurant location on Ellicott Street in Batavia need to act quickly, said owner Charles Brumsted today.

He set a deadline of 3 p.m., Aug. 26, for nonprofits to apply for ownership of the property.

At the same time, Brumsted is facing a deadline of his own -- he has until Sept. 17 to dispose of the property one way or another, or go to trial on a series of misdemeanor charges levied by Batavia code-enforcement inspectors.

Brumstead was summoned to Batavia City Court today -- his attorney appeared on his behalf -- to answer to a series of complaints by the city that Brumstead has not been maintaining his property in compliance with local codes.

The allegations include: problems with the roof; cracks in exterior walls; a front door boarded over with plywood; and the structure's vacant appearance, all of which create a blighted appearance in the neighborhood, among other complaints (Source: WBTA).

Brumsted told WBTA's Geoff Redick today that the deadline in court and the new deadline for the nonprofits is merely a coincidence.

"The deadline that was set for Thursday, August 26th," says Brumsted, "was solely...to the effect that we were overwhelmed with the amount of response, and the not-for-profit organizations that have come forth for the interest in Cristina's restaurant."

Brumsted told The Batavian that some 15 nonprofit organizations have expressed an interest in the property.

The selection criteria, he said, will be based on what the nonprofits want to do with the property and how well that use will serve the community.

Of course, if the property is donated to a nonprofit, it will be taken off the city's tax rolls. At the same time, if the right nonprofit put the property to good use, it would bring people and activity to that section of Ellicott Street.

"I still own property in that area," Brumsted said. "I want to see something that helps other businesses in the area."

In a brief conversation today, City Manager Jason Molino said he didn't have a position on whether the property remains with a private owner or goes to a nonprofit.

"It's his property and he can do what he wants with it," Molino said, adding "Of course, he has a few issues to clear up first."

In other Batavia City Court actions on code-violation allegations:

  • Latina's is in significant compliance with city codes, officials said. The deadline for full compliance was extended to Sept. 17.
  • Ron Graziaplena, who has upset some neighbors with his 19 mallard ducks and other issues in his yard on Oak Street, appeared with an attorney, Frank Zinni. Judge Robert Balbick gave the attorney until Sept. 17 to get up to speed with the case.
August 16, 2010 - 5:27pm
posted by WBTA News in Cristina's, Ellicott Street, non-profit.

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In the wake of a disheartening fire more than two years ago, the owner of the former Cristina’s Restaurant & Lounge on Ellicott Street plans to re-invigorate his property – by giving it away.

Chuck Brumsted says it’s time to see the remains of his restaurant made useful again.

“Without all the community support we had through (25) years, what Cristina’s was wouldn’t have been possible,” Brumsted says. “So we’d like to take the property as-is and donate it to a not-for-profit organization. And that way it stays in the community, and hopefully a majority of the people will be able to use it.”

He bought the building at 230 Ellicott St. in 1984.

“I basically put the building together…through numerous additions; it was a wreck when I acquired it,” he says.

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For 25 years, Brumsted operated the restaurant, gaining notoriety in the area and attracting such big governmental names as Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo.

Then in 2008, tragedy struck. A destructive early-morning blaze ripped through the main building. It was declared a total loss and was eventually torn down, leaving an empty lot next to the also-damaged banquet hall.

The cause of that fire was never discovered. Brumsted declines to speak anymore about the fire.

“We don’t want to live in the past."

And so, moving forward with the property is his goal. In all, he estimates about 9,000 square feet is available, including a 5,000-square-foot, non-combustible masonry building.

“One of the ideas that’s been entertained is to take the part that was a two-story frame building, and make green space, a park-like setting. Then take the building that’s left, open up the east wall, and make an open amphitheater.”

Another idea is for a non-profit to simply acquire it and rent the space out for private parties or wedding receptions. Those are just a few of the many ideas Brumsted envisions for the site; he listed off 10 different proposals in a row. None of it is final, of course: Brumsted hasn’t yet secured a non-profit to donate to.

Whatever the cause, Brumsted says he hasn’t even considered any monetary loss he may absorb by giving it away.

“That hasn’t even been discussed. It’d be an honor and a privilege to see the building stay intact and have years and years of use. It’d be a great memory of Cristina’s.”

Any non-profit organization interested in Chuck Brumsted’s offer is asked to contact him by calling (585) 356-0927.

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PHOTOS:  top, Cristina's today; inset, Cristina's before fire (courtesy Chuck Brumsted); bottom, re-development plans for former Cristina's site (courtesy Chuck Brumsted).

July 14, 2008 - 8:54am
posted by Philip Anselmo in wbta, Charles Schumer, fire, Cristina's.

Check out WBTA for these and other stories:

  • The cause of a fire at Cristina's Restaurant early Saturday morning is still being investigated. The kitchen and restaurant portions of the building suffered a total loss, and the banquet rooms sustained smoke and water damage. Business owner Charles Brumstead is asking anyone who has upcoming reservations at Cristina's to call (585) 343-1029.
  • Temperatures will again climb towards 90 degrees during the second half of this week, and high humidity won't make it any more tolerable. Yay.
  • Sen. Charles Schumer says that families will pay an average of $720 more to heat their homes this winter. In the meantime, he's putting together a proposal that would provide federal aid to help families cover the cost of the increase. We should check out his Web site from time to time to see where it goes.
July 12, 2008 - 9:36am
posted by Philip Anselmo in fire, Cristina's.

These photos were sent to us this morning of the fire at Cristina's Restaurant on Ellicott Street. Batavia firefighters say that the blaze broke out around 1:00am this morning when the building was vacant. There were no injuries, and the fire is reported as under control.

Photos taken by Steve Ognibene.

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