Popular sports bar prepares for last call
Buffalo Wild Wings to close next Friday
By Burton Speakman
Dining and entertainment options in downtown Youngstown were dealt a blow Friday as Buffalo Wild Wings announced that next Friday will be the last day for its Federal Plaza location.
The loss, however, may be short-lived.
Because the site no longer met the requirements to remain a Buffalo Wild Wings franchise, the decision was made to close, said Doug Esenwein, regional manager for Buffalo Wild Wings in the Youngstown market.
As the company grew, it required franchises to have a certain number of televisions and amount of square footage. It became clear the downtown location was not going to be able to meet those requirements, Esenwein said.
The owner had hoped to be able to move into another location downtown or receive an extension from the company to continue operating at the Federal Plaza site, he said.
“We found out at the beginning of the year that wasn’t going to happen. So the owner started looking for someone else to fill the building,” Esenwein said. “We didn’t want to leave the site empty.”
Buffalo Wild Wings is based in Ohio, and the downtown location was the company’s seventh location, he said. The site opened in 1994.
“There is definitely some sadness in its closing because it was the first one in the area,” Esenwein said.
“We are proud of not only the success we’ve enjoyed over the years, but the community connections that we’ve made,” Esenwein said. “The business environment in downtown Youngstown is more vibrant now than ever before.”
A new restaurant is expected to take over the site shortly after Buffalo Wild Wings closes, he said.
“I expect them to make their own announcement within the next few days or if not the next couple of weeks,” he said. “We’re happy the place isn’t going to be sitting empty.”
The downtown location will close with the Party on the Plaza, an annual event the restaurant has hosted. The new ownership group plans to continue the tradition of the Party on the Plaza, Esenwein said.
The closing of Buffalo Wild Wings is kind of bittersweet for the downtown, said Phil Kidd, founder of Defend Youngstown, a grass-roots organization that promotes activism and community pride.
“New business is emerging in the downtown particularly when it comes to entertainment,” he said.
It is understandable that the company might not be happy with its ability to change the space downtown, Kidd said.
“Those buildings are older, and their footprint sort of is what it is,” he said. “The downtown BW-3 was certainly smaller than the other ones.”
Workers found out about the closure on Sunday, said Lori Miller, a bartender and server.
The new location will have the same sports bar atmosphere, and everyone from the Buffalo Wild Wings was offered the chance to remain with the new company, she said. Miller plans to stay at the location.
“It’s new for all of us, and we still don’t know what it’s going to be when it switches over,” Miller said.
Esenwein confirmed that all the current employees will either be hired by the new owner or will transfer to one of the other three Buffalo Wild Wings locations in the area at Austintown, Boardman or Niles.
Reporter Chris Cotelesse contributed to this article.