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Grand Opening of the Varsity Theatre

On Friday, February 12, the entire community is invited to attend the Grand Opening of the Varsity Theatre. After a painstaking grassroots process to restore the theatre, owner Ibrahim Cissé and his avid supporters will be unveiling all of their hard work.

This is the first time that the Varsity Theatre will open its doors in over a decade. It’s a monumental occasion for the East Side, as well as the entire city. Buffalo will have yet another grand music venue and event center in its midst, in a part of the city that deserves to have such a quality social and cultural amenity.

Save the date for this historic occasion. The event is a wonderful chance to support Buffalo go-getters who saw a vision, and did everything that they could to bring it to reality. The rebirth of the Varsity Theatre is just another step towards revitalizing the whole of Bailey Avenue.

Grand Opening of the Varsity Theatre | Friday, February 12, 2016 | 3pm-6pm | 3165 Bailey Avenue | Live music | Food & Drink


Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

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  • Carrotflower

    The restoration and reopening of anything is a noble venture, doubly so on the East Side. But when I read the words “music venue and event center” I immediately got concerned. What with all the new music venues that have popped up in the last few years – Sportsmen’s, the Waiting Room, Iron Works, the reopened Showplace, etc. – I fear the market is saturated. Look at what’s happened with the Showplace in particular; it’s been open in theory for over a year but I can count on one finger the number of events the place has hosted. I can’t imagine how the place stays afloat. And with the Showplace we’re talking about a neighborhood that has a lot more going for it right now than Ken-Bailey. I really and truly hope the same thing doesn’t happen to the Varsity.

  • flexme

    Carrotflower The Showplace is in a dead part of the City. The Varsity is only a short way from UB as well as the east side and Cheektowaga

  • Carrotflower

    flexme Carrotflower Right, but the Showplace is close to Buff State, Elmwood, Grant Street…

  • pfk67

    Only two things can really change this thought process.  Money and people.  Money in terms of jobs, and people in terms of….jobs.

  • buffalorr

    I grew up

  • bailey avenue is lucky to have an old movie house. i am still pissed off that the city tore down the one on grant street.

  • Rand503

    Carrotflower What you say may very well be true, and that would be sad.  
    I would much prefer that instead of them being in competition with each other and try to out do them, they should cooperate and figure ways to maximize their profits.  
    It’s clear that there is a finite audience for this, so they should concentrate not on fighting for the same people to show up every weekend, but rather expand that audience.
    Second, they should not focus on cannibalizing each other, but complementing their offerings.  So there should not be a night were two venues are both presenting top jazz acts.  Rather, one should do one top jazz act, and the other does something else, like R&B, or bluegrass.

    In this way, we can help grow the audience and keep them profitable.  Over time, with this many venues, it will encourage more and more good music and other acts, and hopefully we will become known as place to find good talent.

  • robins36

    Rand503 Carrotflower I don’t see this venue trying to replicate what Showplace used to do in the 90s and 00s, which is cater to up-and-coming rock and alternative artists. The younger audience that supports those bands just won’t be making the trip to this part of Bailey.
    Instead, it should probably try to cater to wedding receptions and other uses that require a concert hall space, maybe even local theatre? Or it could function like the Colored Musicians Club and cater to the local blues/jazz scene that is often underserved in Buffalo.

  • Carrotflower

    buffalorr 1) The fact that Kensington-Bailey is part of the East Side is not in serious dispute anywhere. All modern-day sources agree that it is. Neighborhood old-timers may say it was called “North Buffalo” or “Northeast Buffalo” when they were growing up, and they may be right, but what may have been the case in the past is irrelevant. Once upon a time the Olmsted parkways constituted the outskirts of town, but no one makes that claim today.

    2) Your comments cut to the heart of a troubling tendency i’ve noticed among the community, which is to redraw the boundaries of the East Side whenever the trend is bucked and some positive progress is made in one East Side neighborhood or another. It’s already happened with the Medical Corridor, which most people consider a northern extension of downtown, and with Larkinville, which gets lumped in with South Buffalo more often than not these days. Yes, I’m aware this may sound hypocritical given my first point, but this is something that’s done consciously or semiconsciously, rather than as an organic evolution in nomenclature. And it seems to be selective – I remember clearly last year one of the local TV news stations reporting on a new brewery opening up “in Larkinville” and the next day reporting on a shooting “on the East Side” that was kitty-corner from the brewery. Not even the local preservationist community is completely innocent – notice how the Crosby buildings are always described as “just outside downtown”, not “on the East Side”? Of course either term is technically true, but there’s way too much consistency of East Side = bad, somewhere else = good for it to be a coincidence. 
    At its core, there’s no substantive thing keeping the East Side from redeveloping along with the rest of the city, as it deserves to. The reason why it hasn’t is because of stigma. Continually moving the goalposts with the name game we play does nothing to reverse the stigma; on the contrary, it reinforces it. Let’s stop with the otherizing of the East Side.

  • flexme

    90’s? That’s a quarter century ago – hardly relevant to anything today.

  • buffalorr


  • Carrotflower

    flexme How is that irrelevant? I’m comparing Grant-Amherst today and Grant-Amherst 15-20 years ago (not 25 – I’m talking about the late ’90s – but that’s neither here nor there). With the way the neighborhood has developed, if all else were equal the Showplace should be featuring even bigger names and drawing even bigger crowds than before. Why isn’t it? Because the field of competition is way more crowded today than it was back then.

  • Carrotflower

    robins36 Rand503 Carrotflower What surprises me is that there’s never been anywhere in Buffalo to see live Latin music. Obviously that would be more of a West Side thing than a Bailey Avenue thing, but it’s still a pretty glaring lack.

  • North Park

    Carrotflower buffalorr  We always called anything North of East Amherst St. and East of the railroad tracks the University District.

  • buffalorr

    The olmstead parkways were the northern boundary but the city grew which extended them through a municiple process. the land that comprises the geographical area of north buffalo remains a constant so comparing the two is apples to orances. the latitudes at which these areas are located remain the same. by your way of thinking, riverside and black rock would simply be “the west side”. the botanical gardens would be on the east side as would riverbend. there would barely be a southside. the varsity theather is located in the universtiy district as is ub south both being east of main. by your logic they’re in the same section of the city as the broadway market which is on the true east side of buffalo.
    it’s you that’s arbitrarily and i must say arrogantly redrawing the boundaries which is both erroneous and disrespectful to buffalo natives and life long residents. you are the person labeling the east side’bad”. you’re also telling east side residents that they have to be absorbed into a vast swath of buffalo you claim is the east side because the existing area is not good enough.
    the news stations with their lazy reporting are guilty of the same type of misbranding because they are staffed largely by out of towners who are ignorant ofbuffalos neighborhoods/geography and serve only to dumb down those not knowing any better.
    at the very least, the varsity theater can be considerd to be on buffalo’s northeast side. no amount of re-wrting the geographical map will ever change that.

  • Carrotflower

    it’s you that’s arbitrarily and i must say arrogantly redrawing the boundaries which is both erroneous and disrespectful to buffalo natives and life long residents. you are the person labeling the east side’bad”. you’re also telling east side residents that they have to be absorbed into a vast swath of buffalo you claim is the east side because the existing area is not good enough.

    I’m not sure whether you mean “you” as in me specifically, or some sort of plural “you”. But the things I wrote reflect popular usage, not simply my own opinion. We could bicker back and forth about which neighborhood or block should be part of which “side” until the cows come home, but it doesn’t make a lick of difference because absent any official boundaries it’s consensus through popular usage that determines what a neighborhood is called, not you individually or me individually. I don’t know how it’s “arrogant” to simply state things as they are.

  • buffalorr

    Carrotflower—Has there been some type of survey taken that confirms your “consensus”? Whenever history or facts are rewritten, those who believe them are doomed to failure.

  • Carrotflower

    buffalorr As a young teenager I lived for several years near the corner of Eggert and Kensington – further north than the Varsity – and no one was under the impression that it constituted North Buffalo or anything other than the East Side. Has there ever been a formal survey? No, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. I’ve lived in this city my whole life. I haven’t seen you produce anything in favor of your position other than your own say-so, either.

  • buffalorr

    “North Buffalo:” describes a geographical location. It’s more than a “p;ace name:.and as I stated beofre also something that can’t be physically moved by a few selective words.

  • Pig_Lightning

    I think you have it backwards.
    Many disparate neighborhoods that comprised distinct areas of Buffalo were lumped in together as “the east side” as the result of disinvestment, white flight, redlining, and abandonment. Wards, council districts, police precincts, school zones, census tracts, even neighborhood boundaries crossed Main Street.

    The term “East Side” — which originally referred to a small part of the city lying east of downtown, not every part of Buffalo east of Main — was a way for no-hopers to wall off 1/3rd of the land area of the city and write it off. It was a way to obliterate previously existing distinctions by taking characteristics of one subset of the eastern third of the city and apply it to every square inch of Main Street. What calling everything east of Main Street “the East Side” does it allow the ghettoization of a huge swath of the city to continue.

    What’s useful is to see the distinctiveness of every area of the city, and develop that distinctiveness. The Varsity isn’t an outlier in the vast wasteland of “the East Side”, it’s a cornerstone of the north Bailey Ave commercial corridor, and a community asset for Lasalle and Kensington neighborhoods. It will benefit the broader area of Northeast Buffalo, and perhaps people from other parts of the city will appreciate and visit.

  • buffalorr

    Pig_lightning—Very well stated!

  • buffalorr Geography isn’t just physical, but also social.
    I grew up in 14215 too.  We called Kensington, Delavan-Bailey, and University Heights parts of Northeast Buffalo. After 1990 or so, local television news started referring to Kensingotn as part of the East Side, while University Heights became part of North Buffalo.  Kensington’s demographics became more “East Side”, so others’ perception of its location did too, in a way.