As change ripples across Buffalo, many of the city’s unique neighborhoods are seeing the kind of growth and change they likely haven’t seen for decades.
One of those neighborhoods is Buffalo’s unofficial LGBTQ district, which stretches west to east from Main Street to Pearl Street and north to south from Allen Street to North Street.
The neighborhood has a long and proud history of supporting both gay social life and gay-owned businesses. But now, with the medical campus rapidly expanding across Main Street and changing attitudes toward LGBTQ cultures, this neighborhood is slowly transitioning from a safe haven of expression for those with “alternative lifestyles” – to a mainstream-friendly melting pot.
Preservation Pub is the neighborhood’s newest lunch spot and owner Rosalyn Righetti recently told me “it was time” for her to relaunch Ohm Ultra Lounge into a business that features pub fare during the day with an eye toward expanding into dinner service.
“For ten years, I’ve been here and to see a business progress,” she said, “is pretty exciting.”
“We’re going to start with our lunches and still do a little bit of our nightlife and see what the area deems,” she added. “If the area deems dinner service, we’ll do that too.”
Like the neighborhood’s current flavor, the Preservation Pub is starting from modest beginnings. The menu features the kind of pub fare you might expect from similar places around town. However, what may seem pedestrian in other places is bizarrely unique in Allentown. Nestled among businesses serving gentrified tacos, upscale poutine and gourmet grilled cheeses, simple handmade burgers available for under $10 and a soup-and-sandwich lunch special ($9) stands as an aberration.
Righetti may ironically be changing her nightlife hotspot to a gastropub with the word ‘preservation’ in the name, but there is indeed something very old-school, blue-collar Buffalo about the place. The shiny and new places around town can manufacture character with their reclaimed fixtures and interiors, but its places like the Preservation Pub where true character can often be found.
Whatever my high-minded thoughts on Buffalo’s progress might mean, Righetti sounded enthusiastic about the ongoing changes and seemed confident Buffalonians would not let their city become a nameless, faceless 21st century Anytown, USA.
“We have been so underdeveloped for so many years; we would really have to go full-tilt boogie,” she said.
“I think there’s room for everybody,” she added. “If you change the flavor a little bit – what is that gonna do?
Righetti cited the fact that the so-called gay district around her may be changing – but those changes are largely for the better and haven’t disrupted the neighborhood social scene.
“People have a lot of diversity in their family and diversity in their friends,” she added, alluding to changing attitudes about LGBTQ culture. “Look at St. Patrick’s Day, everybody’s all over the place. It’s not like it was 30, 40 years ago where (gay) people had to run in the back door.”
When it comes to the Preservation Pub, you may be like me: caring deeply about the history of the neighborhood and what the new place signifies for Buffalo’s LGBTQ community, Allentown and the city as a whole.
Or, you may be like the grease-streaked construction crew from across the street who wandered in as I was wrapping up my interview: just interested in getting good food at a reasonable price.
Either way, the Preservation Pub stands as a sign of the evolving contrasts of the Queen City and a must-stop-in during any trip to Allentown.
For more information on Preservation Pub, follow them on Facebook.
948 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14202
Hours: Open – 11 am to 3:30 pm (Monday – Friday), 10 am to 2 am (First and Second Saturdays), Lunch – 11 am to 3:30 pm (Monday – Friday)
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