The Buffalo waterfront was struck yet another blow late Friday, Shanghi Reds will be closing for the next few months. The popular waterfront restaurant built 5 years ago to replace the oft-troubled Crawdaddy's will be shuttered for at least the next few months with possible plans of reopening.
There had been stories over the past 6 months that the restaurant was considering making changes to it's structure and menu, but according to staff members they were informed Friday that they would no longer be employed after Sunday brunch service. The restaurant has posted a notice in it's lobby that it is closing the "dining facilities" until April 1st, but that it's banquet facilities will continue on, business as usual. This does not bode well for the restaurant which has become a waterfront attraction. Though upscale, the restaurant has been able to build up its name and is well known for it's Sunday brunch. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that Sunday brunch and two months of summer are able to pay the bills for a year round restaurant.
The restaurant's at least temporary closing strikes a blow to the local economy. The wait staff and cook's are suddenly looking for work and wondering how they make their next car payment in an already dire local job market. Even more, the closing strikes a blow to Buffalo waterfront development.
The space Shanghi Reds sits on is considered prime real estate for Buffalo Economic Development, aka Byron Brown and his supporters. The restaurant boarding up during the winter has to at least delay checking into a waterfront hotel. Will the patrons of the new hotel stare longingly at the shuttered restaurant and wish they could eat? Or even worse, will the new hotel have a restaurant that competes with a seasonal Shanghi Reds?
Economic Development leaders keep telling us Bass Pro is being lured to our waterfront, but maybe the closing of Shanghi Reds will be the wake up call people need. If we want the waterfront to be vibrant and exciting year round, it needs people year round, simple as that. Once the boats are out of the water and the lake freezes there has to be a reason for people to come to the waterfront. Canalside could be that reason, Bass Pro won't be. At best Bass Pro will be a casino; lure people in, take their money, then they go home without stopping anywhere else. At worst, Bass Pro will be a failure that will eat up precious economic dollars.
Take the economic dollars and build 100 small reasons for people to go to the waterfront; stores, businesses, museums, and condos. Don't put all of your money and investment in one big chain store that won't save a region. Look at Baltimore's inner harbor, or Jacksonville's riverfront, these projects give residents and tourists alike a place to go that satisfies many needs. Maybe Shanghi Reds will reopen April Sat, but more than likely another waterfront restaurant has died waiting on the economic revival that's been being promised for the last 20 years.