BEMUS POINT - The family of current Village Casino operator Steve Carlson will continue to run the facility for the next five years.
The Bemus Point Village Board will enter into a contract with Professional Hospitality - one of two bidders proposing to operate the site once the village's current lease with Carlson expires in October. Ellicottville Brewing Company also submitted a proposal.
The decision wasn't unanimous, however.
Village Trustee Chris Wight cast the only opposing vote to award the contract to Professional Hospitality. She said her vote against the contract is because she wanted to table the vote in order to get more public input.
"We have nothing to gain by rushing," she said, adding, however, the village had a lot to win by holding off. "We missed a wonderful opportunity to get more input from actual residents," she said.
Ms. Wight said she also liked Ellicottville Brewing Co.'s ideas to have the casino feature more family entertainment and less late night activities, since there have already been noise problems there. She said she called Ellicottville Brewing Co. references and found the establishments in Ellicottville and Fredonia have a reputation for community involvement and being responsive to those communities. She said brewing company plans to funnel rent money into the building would have left the village with "a much more sound and beautiful building at the end of (the) lease."
Mayor Bryan Dahlberg said reasons for choosing Professional Hospitality included economics.
Dahlberg said the brewing company wanted the village to reinvest some of the rent it would pay back into the facility.
Although the village lease is with Carlson, Dahlberg said Professional Hospitality representatives work on and manage the facility already. He said Village Board members felt comfortable knowing the people who already work and manage the facility. Dahlberg said while there are issues such as noise from the facility, board members felt "pretty comfortable (and) content" with the operators they already know.
Dahlberg said the village and Professional Hospitality officials plan to address noise issues this summer, before the new contract begins in October. He said Professional Hospitality representatives have already begun work to design new doors they think may help with noise problems.
"We're pretty happy about that," Dahlberg said about a decision being reached on who will operate the facility.
"We are very grateful to the village trustees and community to enable us to continue the traditions Steve Carlson laid out," said David VanNess of Professional Hospitality, who said he has been operating the Casino for the last five years. "It's an old building we certainly cherish," he said, adding he would like to keep the building "within its culture but bring it into modern times."
Continuing "a fun and friendly, family atmosphere with an affordable menu" is also on his agenda, he said, adding he would like to add to the menu but continue having dining on the lake and music.
VanNess also said he enjoys giving back to the community whenever possible, such as donating time for events like the Take A Seat Auction, benefits for the Chautauqua Lake Association or benefits for community members.
While attorneys next work to draw up contracts with Professional Hospitality, others in the village are already reacting to the decision.
Ellicottville Brewing Co. officials could not be reached to comment Wednesday.
Bebe Johnson of the Hotel Lenhart, a neighboring business to the casino, called the decision a good one. She said Professional Hospitality representatives are established. Although there have been problems in the past, she said, they are being resolved. She said an additional police presence in the area of the casino this year is also expected to help.
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