The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 29, 2013

Owner of closed eatery lashes out at CamTran

JOHNSTOWN — The economy made City View Bar and Grill very sick, owner Andy Lasky said Friday, but it was the Cambria County Transit Authority that killed the popular eatery.

“People want to know what is wrong with Johnstown,” Lasky said at a hastily called press conference outside the Edgehill Drive restaurant in Westmont.

“(My wife) Katie and I spent $400,000 to keep these doors open in bad times and the Cambria County Transit Authority – made up of our own fellow citizens – chose to close those same doors for $7,000. If that doesn’t make sense to you, welcome to our world.”

Lasky admitted owing about $400,000 to the Internal Revenue Service and to creditors, but said the tax and bill collectors were willing to let the business refinance because it was starting to rebound.

The $7,000 represents being behind three months on the rent.

As the owner and operator of the adjacent Inclined Plane, CamTran benefits from the City View’s success, Lasky stressed.

Moreover, Lasky stressed, he and his wife invested in equipment and furniture at the restaurant. All of that is now the property of CamTran.

That is part of the reason Lasky said he is not surprised there is interest in taking over the City View operation.

‘What they gave us was an empty building with a bad reputation

that was closed for four years,” he said.

“What they are taking from me now is a beautiful, remodeled, completely equipped restaurant with a great reputation. These legions of people that might be interested now – where were they eight, nine or 10 years ago when Katie and I were taking the responsibility for trying to make this thing happen?”

But CamTran Chairman Edward Cernic Jr. said it was more than the back rent that led to last week’s unanimous vote to terminate the restaurant lease.

“We considered all the factors, not just the three months’ rent,” Cernic said.

And the Laskys did not revitalize the City View on their own, Cernic stressed.

“The transit authority put in almost $1 million to get it up to Andy’s standards,” Cernic said, adding that Lasky’s investment was part of the partnership negotiated to restart the moribund restaurant. The investment included nearly $500,000 in federal funds obtained through the late John Murtha.

CamTran later reduced the rent and agreed to pump $10,000 into the City View’s marketing program, provided it included promotions for the Inclined Plane.

“It is a hard pill for me, too,” Cernic said. “But we have to be responsible for taxpayers’ money.”

Lasky apologized to all the former customers who had scheduled events at the restaurant and in its banquet room. He plans to call each personally.

He will not be able to provide refunds for any gift certificates, he said, adding that a majority of outstanding certificates were actually donated by the restaurant as promotions.

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