In mid-August, two beloved restaurants in Buffalo’s University Heights neighborhood closed their doors for the foreseeable future.
On Aug. 16, Lake Effect Diner turned off its lights after serving the UB community for 19 years. The next day, The Steer Restaurant and Saloon followed, after 28 years in business. The two restaurants were located on Main St., just a few short blocks from UB’s South Campus and were heavily frequented by UB students over the years.
Owner Tucker Curtin told WGRZ Buffalo that the closures are a result of worker shortages and supply chain issues.
Curtin told Buffalo Business First in an interview that the stress of being understaffed and overworked was quickly reaching a breaking point.
“It becomes a breakdown in the product we deliver, and we don’t want to be shooting for mediocrity when we’ve had such a good, long run and such a good reputation,” Curtin said. “I’d rather leave on a high note.”
But just two days after The Steer closed its doors, Erin Campbell Curtin, Tucker’s spouse and restaurant collaborator, posted on Instagram that she had not been consulted on the decision to close and is committed to keeping the restaurants open.
“The Steer Restaurant and Lake Effect Diner are family businesses which Tucker and I have run along with our children since 1993,” Campbell Curtin said. “I was not consulted on the sudden closing of both restaurants. I am committed to keeping the restaurants open. With our dedicated staff, I look forward to welcoming our loyal patrons back soon. Stay tuned!”
It is unclear if the two locations will reopen, but the Instagram post was met with support from the community and UB students.
On Aug. 20 the Buffalo News reported that Campbell Curtin filed a court challenge against Tucker Curtin’s closing of the restaurants; Tucker later said his wife was not a partner in the corporation.
The Spectrum reached out to Tucker for comment, but as of the time of publication, he had not responded.
Ciara Burke, a graduate economics student, says she is saddened by the closure. Burke once met actress and comedian Tina Fey while eating there.
“I’ve had a lot of fun memories there over the years. When I was a freshman I went there to get dessert with a new friend, and it was the first time I took a bus to South Campus,” Burke said. “Sophomore year I went there for my birthday dinner because I was on crutches, and I ended up meeting Tina Fey. When I was a junior and everything seemed a bit depressing, I had brunch with my friends between online classes and shared lots of laughs. It's honestly pretty sad I won't be able to make more fun memories there during my final year at UB.”
In April 2020, 199 Delaware Avenue Inc., Tucker’s corporation, received $129,000 in paycheck protection program loans to fight back against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lake Effect Diner is notable around Buffalo for previously being featured in Season 7, Episode 13 of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives hosted by Guy Fieri. In the episode, Fieri reviewed the diner’s in-house smoked bacon and ham and the made-from-scratch red-eye gravy.
Tucker Curtin previously sued Lake Effect Artisan Ice Cream in 2019, claiming that the creamery had infringed on the diner’s trademark and caused confusion among customers who thought the two were related. Under the initial lawsuit, Curtin had asked the creamery to rename itself and sought damages for the period of time the two businesses shared a similar name. Both businesses agreed to drop the suit.
While he said it pained him to do so, Curtin told the Buffalo News, “The Steer and Lake Effect diner are closed, and have no intention of reopening.”
Dan Eastman is the assistant managing editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Frey is the assistant news/features editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Julie Frey is an assistant news/features editor for The Spectrum.