The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 31, 2013

A city view we find hard on the eyes

— Restaurants come and restaurants go, but, somehow, watching Westmont’s City View Bar & Grill close leaves a special hurt and, even more, a glaring void in our region’s tourism trade.

For eight years, well-known businesspeople and husband and wife, Andy and Katie Lasky, operated the restaurant and bar atop historic Inclined Plane. Unfortunately, mounting problems tied to financial difficulties forced a decision by CamTran to pull the plug on the couple and its 25-worker staff. 

Even if you hadn’t been a regular City View patron, you had to be saddened. Amenities aside, in our region, there probably isn’t a more beautiful spot from a scenery standpoint to enjoy a beverage, snack or meal. It long has been a must-see stop for tourists and a special place for locals to wine and dine visiting out-of-town family members and friends.

“This was not a pleasant action,” Cambria County Transit Authority said in a statement. “We as an authority (and lessor of the property) have a fiduciary responsibility to the public and taxpayers and we were left with no other options but to take this action.”

It was a business decision we believe was done after much thought and with much regret. Change apparently was warranted.

That determined, we urge the board to put on a front burner efforts to find a new operator. Summer and the height of tourism season are near. Another closed business is the last thing we want our visitors to see, not to mention the lost revenue.

Ed Cernic Jr., county controller and chairman of the CamTran board, agrees.

“CamTran has a substantial financial commitment up there,” he said. “We’re not going to walk away from it. It’s a destination for people coming into town.”

In fact, he said that as news spread early Tuesday afternoon of the restaurant’s closure, the board had received “numerous inquiries” regarding the location.

Here are two suggestions:

* The board should weigh initial interest in the establishment and if nothing strikes a chord, put the property in the hands of professionals who can quickly widen a search for prospective operators. 

* Don’t rule out a sports-bar atmosphere offering affordable drinks, good burgers, special sandwiches, fries, salads and homemade soups. Tourists, especially, often are looking for family-friendly meals from a cost standpoint and because of time restrictions.

Ironically for taxpayers, another county authority has also found itself left with an empty restaurant.

Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority members recently learned that the latest efforts to fill the terminal restaurant had fallen through.

The setback came as a disappointment for airport manager RaNell Fenchak.

Cafe Fratelli owner Joe Crimone of Somerset had been in lease negotiations for the airport restaurant, but those negotiations have ended, Fenchak told the authority board.

“I talked to Joe Crimone,” she said.” Because of things going on at the (Somerset) business he’s in now, he’s not able to move into the (airport) restaurant at this time.

“He’s not saying it is a dead deal, but for now we are looking for somebody else.”

The airport restaurant has been vacant since Audi’s Olde World closed in November 2011. It was the sixth operation there since the new terminal opened in May 1999.

Perhaps the airport authority members also need professionals to advise them on what is going wrong.

In addition to those flying into and out of the terminal, an estimated 400 to 500 people work at businesses and military facilities around the airfield. Airport Road, too, is a main thoroughfare for area residents heading to and from Richland Township businesses and workplaces.

Two county authorities with similar problems. Is there any reason they can’t work together to solve them?

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