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JUNE 24 - JULY 02, 2014

Restaurant Business Here Shows Politicians Can't Screw it all Up

By Mike Hudson

June 24, 2014

Towering over us.
It is great to be a tax free business in a land where your competition is the second highest taxed place in the nation.

Depending on who you listened to, the 2003 opening of the Seneca Niagara Casino here would either make or destroy the hospitality industry here, especially the food service business.

Eleven years have come and gone since then, and, according to the Niagara County Department of Health, which inspects non-Seneca restaurants, there were 929 food service establishments in Niagara County in 2002. The county today has 937 beaneries.

The number actually spiked in 2007, when diners found themselves with 1,087 places to eat in Niagara County. But, since them, a steady decline has set in. The county has 150 fewer restaurants today than it did in 2007.

In the city of Niagara Falls, similar results have occurred.

There were 206 dining options in 2003. Today there are 222.

The state went so far as to waste millions of dollars on the creation of the so-called “Third Street Entertainment District” in order to soak up some of the spillover from the casino. As this and many other vacant properties closest to the casino prove, there is no spinoff from the casino.


There has been shifting, and places near the casino such as the Arterial Lounge, George's and the Press Box, all longtime community institutions, closed, but new openings in other parts of town made up the difference.

The fact is, the Seneca Casino has had a negligible effect on life in Niagara Falls. The city is poorer, but the economic slide that began in the 1960s has merely continued.

The murder and property crime rates haven't been affected too much and the steady exodus of the hardworking, educated and ambitious has continued unabated.

The question remains. If the people of Niagara Falls knew, back in 2002, that giving the Senecas the city's Convention Center and 50 acres of the most valuable real estate in town wouldn't change anything about the quality of life in their municipality, would they have been so eager to make the deal?

The millions paid by the Senecas each year to the state and the pittance of that trickled down to the Niagara Falls City Hall has not resulted in the creation of a single new private sector job here, and has been instead used to inflate the salaries of public officials beyond all reason and fund government sponsored boondoggles like the awful Hard Rock Café concert series and the disastrous Holiday Market.

As the stability of the restaurant business here shows, the free market can take care of itself. It's only in the public sector, where the second highest property tax rate in the nation is combined with casino cash to form a giant pool meant to provide for the general welfare of our community, that you have charlatans like Paul Dyster stepping up to squander it.

To listen to the cheerleaders at former mayor Irene Elia’s City Hall and the brain trust at USA Niagara Development, the casino would attract throngs of pleasure seekers to the Cataract City, individuals who would go beyond the Quonset hut-like confines of the casino itself and sally forth in search of dining pleasure. It did not happen. The casino is an island unto itself.






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