Restaurateur Tucker Curtin was stating the obvious recently when he told a News reporter: "You can't make any money when your door's closed."
For years, Curtin's popular waterfront eatery, Dug's Dive, wasn't making any money from November through April because his lease agreement with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority didn't allow the restaurant to stay open during the late fall and winter months.
That will change this year, thankfully. Curtin and the NFTA hammered out their differences over who would pay the extra expenses associated with a year-round operation. The NFTA's board of commissioners this week agreed to amend its lease with Curtin's company, Buffalo River Marine Terminal, which will be responsible for some salting and other cold-weather upkeep and pay an additional $3,312 in rent.
It's a win for Curtin and for the NFTA. But most importantly, it's a win for Western New York residents and their quest for a more accessible and developed waterfront.
A punch line for too long, the city's inner harbor finally has become a destination, thanks largely to a critical mass of small projects and developments coming together to form a greater whole.
There's a well-organized concert series at the Central Wharf site, new bike and walking paths, boldly colored Adirondack chairs that beckon visitors to take a load off and watch the sun set, to name a few. A couple of new eateries have opened, as well. And even bigger developments are under way.
Now it's time for that momentum to be carried over to the outer harbor, the stretch of Buffalo south of downtown that runs along Lake Erie near Furhmann Boulevard.
Since 2006 Dug's Dive has been a summertime magnet on the outer harbor, which has no other dining options. The eatery was on pace to exceed $1 million in revenues this year. Its visitor base is an obvious foundation for attracting further development in the area.
Curtin, who also operates three other eateries in Western New York and has a proven track record in the restaurant industry, understandably doesn't expect Dug's Dive to be as busy when the weather cools down. But he figures it can still be a draw in the dead of winter.
People seem to be naturally drawn to the water, even if it's frozen part of the year. Curtin deserves credit for continuing to push the NFTA to resolve the year-round lease snag, which first surfaced in 2010.
The deal costs taxpayers nothing - and ultimately could end up generating sales tax revenue for the county and city.
It might be also be a signal that the NFTA, which for years dragged its feet on developing the outer harbor, has turned over a new leaf and gained a sense of urgency.
We still maintain that the area's transportation authority should be out of the business of waterfront land ownership and development. It has too many other priorities on which to focus, including improving bus routes and making the transit system more efficient. But as long as the NFTA owns the waterfront land, it should be seeking new ways to generate revenue and attract people to the waterfront.