By Steve Cichon
People find it hard to remember Fisherman’s Wharf without calling it “the infamous Fisherman’s Wharf.”
The restaurant was perhaps the seediest of Chippewa’s seedy joints during the strip’s heyday as Buffalo’s de facto red light district.
At a State Liquor Authority hearing in 1969, Buffalo Police said the place was frequented by disorderly women, dope peddlers, and people looking to employ disorderly women and dope peddlers. Three cops said they were approached by women soliciting them for immoral purposes and offering marijuana for sale inside the tavern.
It was the epicenter of the mid-1970s scene where one judge estimated that up to 40 prostitutes worked the street each night. The going rate was $20; the bargain rate $15.
Just to the south of the Fisherman’s Wharf building on Franklin Street was the place last known as the Villa Nova Hotel.
The Villa Nova started life as the Cheltenham Hotel just before the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, during which anti-liquor crusader Carrie Nation may have been the most famous guest.
Hope was high that the building could someday be renovated into apartments when an arsonist struck the abandoned building on a spring day in 1989; it was demolished soon thereafter.
A few months after the fire, the now garishly painted yellow and black Fisherman’s Wharf was bought up with the hopes of a Chippewa Street revival.
“With a little imagination and foresight, Chippewa Street could come roaring back,” realtor Jay Heckman told News Reporter Paula Voell in June 1989.
For the same story, developer Myron Robbins told Voell he bought the Fisherman’s Wharf building simply to save it from being knocked down.
“I’m a preservationist,” Robbins said. “I had the money, so I stepped in and grabbed the building. The building is safe at this point,” adding, “I’ve committed myself to making sure the building doesn’t deteriorate any further and that at some point it will be completely restored.”
Three years later, Robbins asked for permits to tear the building down. The following year, in 1993, Judge Frank A. Sedita II ordered an emergency demolition.
Five years later, in 1998, the $400,000 Soho nightclub was built on the spot.