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Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs debuts outside First Niagara Center - PHOTOS

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Liberty Hound announces plans for Sabres season - INTERVIEW

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Plenty of local media chattered has centered around the economic toll that the NHL’s lockout has had on Buffalo’s waterfront businesses—especially bars and restaurants.

For Lagerhaus 95, the NHL’s “respite of greed” served as a valuable time of training and adjustment for Jeff Lang and his new staff. For the Liberty Hound—which opened in May 2012—the lack of Sabres hockey forced the restaurant to shut down since Nov. 1.

With the NHL returning again at 12:30 p.m. Sunday when the Sabres play host to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Liberty Hound will open its doors for one of the first times this winter, an exciting time for a restaurant-bar that gathered so much momentum during the Buffalo Place concert season.

We spoke over the phone yesterday with Liberty Hound owner Mike Shatzel, who also runs Blue Monk and Cole’s on Elmwood and Brennan’s Bowery on Main Street in Williamsville, and he noted that Liberty Hound will only open for Sabres home games—no away tilts as of yet—and there are surprisingly big plans for the eatery nestled within the Erie County Naval and Military Park.

“We’re not the size of Pearl Street,” Shatzel candidly admitted, “and we only have 40 seats and then 20 can fit at the bar, so I’m not really sure what to expect [for Sabres games].”

Liberty Hound will open at 4 p.m. on game nights and close whenever the crowd begins to die down considerably—but that’s expected to be well after the final horn sounds at the First Niagara Center. Even though he was putting the last touches on a menu yesterday, Shatzel provided a few additional details:

There are currently two TV screens above the bar, but Shatzel mentioned that he’ll likely add a third on the opposite wall for dinner guests.
The food menu will encompass 12 or 15 dishes, including five appetizers, a few salads and six sandwiches or more.
Beer specials will primarily be pre- and post-game, but Liberty Hound’s 12 American micro-beers will be available as usual.
A few dishes to expect on the menu: a mahi mahi sandwich, panko-crusted chicken sandwich.

The late fall and winter has been a major downer for the Liberty Hound, which Shatzel co-owns with Jason Davidson.

“Our original plan was to be open year-round,” Shatzel admitted. “After Fleet Week ended, we were making 10% of what we were doing before. We were hemorrhaging what we made, so we shut down Nov. 1.”

With his business hanging in the balance, Shatzel’s predictions for the NHL lockout seesawed month by month—much like many hockey-starved Buffalonians.

“I was pretty positive in November that we wouldn’t miss the whole season,” Shatzel said. “In December, then, I thought there wouldn’t be a season. In January, though— after reading a few things on ESPN.com—I knew we’d have hockey back in Buffalo.”

After a positive summer of activity, it will be a boon for all waterfront businesses that hockey has returned. Since we’re housed at the Buffalo News, one block away from the First Niagara Center, we’ve witnessed the “ghost-town” that Canalside has become in the last few months.

Now that the streams of blue and gold will return down Washington Street, taking the metro, dining pre-game and drinking post-game, and spurring the local economy, we’re optimistic again for what the future holds.

TAGGED: buffalo sabres, cobblestone district, hockey bars, jason davidson, liberty hound, mike shatzel, nhl lockout, waterfront

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