The pandemic hasn’t been easy for restaurants – that’s an understatement. Desperate times call for desperate measures. They also call for common sense to prevail, and in the case of Shango Bistro, it finally has.
Just in time for Shango’s 15-year anniversary, the restaurant is being granted its liquor license. Incredibly, due to a completely outlandish and severely dated NYS Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Law, Shango could only serve beer and wine, due to its proximity to St. Joseph University Parish and School.
A prohibition-era rule prevents the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) from issuing liquor licenses to establishments ‘on the same street or avenue and within 200 feet of a building occupied exclusively as a school, church, synagogue or other place of worship.’
This prohibition-era rule, unbelievably, has also prevented a number of restaurants from opening in recent years, but that’s another story for another day. This particular case, a hard-fought battle-won, was a long time in the making, and couldn’t have come at a better time. Heading into the fall and winter seasons, Shango will now be better prepared to stay afloat, armed with the ability to make craft cocktails for its loyal customers.
“We have the opportunity to celebrate Shango’s fifteen-year anniversary in the most fitting way imaginable,” said Buffalo-native, chef-owner Jim Guarino, an award-winning, self-taught chef inspired by the soulful culture, music, and cuisine of New Orleans. “I look forward to creating a craft cocktail menu and entrees that allow our guests explore the flavors and history of New Orleans in a whole new way.
“I am thankful to everyone who helped us navigate this complex legal issue. Running a restaurant is difficult in the best of times and we are operating in the most perilous business environment imaginable. Fortunately, Shango’s loyal customers kept us afloat during the most severe COVID related restrictions and thanks to Senator Kennedy and Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes we finally have the tools we need to serve our customers for years to come.”
Few exemptions to this law from 1933 are allowed and Governor Cuomo signed stand-alone legislation duly passed by the New York State Legislature (A10707/S8662) so the license could be issued to Shango.
“I wish Shango the best of luck and I hope they will continue to call the University District home for fifteen more years,” said Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “The economic impact of COVID-19 is being felt throughout Western New York and its hitting small, family-owned businesses especially hard. My office will continue to work on strengthening our economy while keeping residents safe.”
“It was an absolute pleasure to help Shango, an anchor establishment in the University District, secure a license that will only further grow their family restaurant,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “This was truly an effort driven by the community, and this win couldn’t come at a more needed time – a time when our small businesses are going above and beyond to keep their doors open and their customers served safely. Special thanks to Jim Guarino for continuing to invest in our city; cheers to many more years of continued success!”
Guarino will announce his new menu items and anniversary specials soon. Plans for a NOLA-scale anniversary party are on hold until the current public health threat subsides.