Brian Davis, Leonard Stokes and the Failure of One Sunset

Still missing . . .

Still missing . . .

There’s a pretty incredible story in the Buffalo News today about One Sunset, the restaurant opened by former Turner-Carroll basketball star Leonard Stokes that failed in a year despite $160,000 in city money and an unusually “hand on” approach from city officials:

Bankers on a city board told local basketball star Leonard Stokes “no” when he asked to borrow $120,000 from City Hall to start an upscale restaurant.

Too much risk. Too little private money. Not enough experience on the resume.

But City Hall bureaucrats replied “yes” to the then 26-year-old Stokes. They cobbled together $160,000 in loans and grants to help him launch One Sunset, his Gates Circle restaurant.

And they didn’t stop there.

One of the city’s top economic development officials did everything from handling cash receipts to negotiating with vendors to decorating restaurant bathrooms.

“She was there more than Leonard was,” said Jeff Wright, a former bartender, of Michelle M. Barron. Barron is vice president of neighborhood economic development for the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., City Hall’s development agency.

• After bankers and others on BERC’s large loan committee rejected Stokes’ loan request, BERC employees approved smaller loans and a grant whose amounts exempted the proposal from further banker scrutiny. The money totaled $110,000, almost as much as the $120,000 rejected by the bankers.

• Although One Sunset was located in the Delaware District, the restaurant’s $30,000 grant came from federal anti-poverty money allocated to Davis for his Ellicott Council District.

• City officials, including Barron, urged the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to loan the restaurant $50,000 without disclosing the restaurant was on the brink of closing. The IDA made the loan without checking financial statements or public documents showing One Sunset was in trouble.

Wow, where to begin?  I’m most interested in figuring out why Stokes received this kind of service when so many regular people find City Hall nearly impossible to work with.  It could be that his history as a star ball player opened up some doors that would have been otherwise closed.  Still, even in a  town so starry-eyed that it would give Terrell Owens the key to the city just for showing up, it’s hard to believe that city officials would bend over backwards for what amounts to a minor-league basketball player.

I’ve always thought Brian Davis was the key to this story.  It seems odd — and hopefully illegal — for him to have used anti-poverty money designated for the Ellicott district to support an upscale restaurant in the Delaware district.  It seems odder still that one of the many personal checks he’s accused of bouncing was for $3,500 to Stokes’ landlord on behalf of the restaurant.  It’s one thing to misuse public money — that happens all the time, unfortunately.  But it’s something else entirely for a public official to start spending his own money.  What is the relationship between Brian Davis and Leonard Stokes?

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13 Responses to “Brian Davis, Leonard Stokes and the Failure of One Sunset”

  1. Totally uninformed speculation Says:

    The Davis-Stokes relationship might be a combo of the relationship between Davis and Barron (him returning past favors from BERC or hoping for future favors – he seems to need a lot of favors) and the relationship between Barron and Stokes (unknown, but she donated a lot of time to his restaurant, and ex-pro-athletes never seem to have a shortage of female attention).

  2. Leonard Stokes’ Grassroots Connection « Will There Ever Be a Rainbow? Says:

    […] family of one of the most prominent members of the Grassroots political machine might explain the unusual level of service he received from Byron Brown’s  Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation despite being turned down for […]

  3. Annapmike Says:

    Why would Brian Davis pay the rent? Do you remember the beginning of “Godfather 2” where Michael Corleone tells the corrupt Senator to pay for the Corleone family’s gaming license? Why would the corrupt Senator pay for the gaming license of a mobster? When shady people are involved in shady deals they have to do shady things to keep the enterprise moving along or they risk getting kicked out of the shady dealings and being exposed.

  4. Leonard Stokes’ Grassroots Connection: Part Deux « Will There Ever Be a Rainbow? Says:

    […] has a family connection to the Grassroots machine, which just might have something to do with why he received such unusually attentive service from the city when he was opening his doomed restaurant, One […]

  5. Byron Brown and the Inevitable Thing « Will There Ever Be a Rainbow? Says:

    […] the One Sunset scandal surfaces, wherein Brown’s economic development team ignores logic and rules to throw money at a […]

  6. Jonny Flynn and the Local NBA Drought | WNYmedia.net Says:

    […] With Niagara Falls’ Jonny Flynn playing well for Minnestoa in the NBA Summer League, I’ve been thinking about the incredible dry spell that ended with Flynn being drafted 6th overall by the Timberwolves in June.  Since Nichols’ Christian Laettner was drafted in 1992, no other local player was picked in the first round of the NBA draft.  In fact, only one other player was drafted at all during that time — Seneca’s Damone Brown went in the second round in 2001 and had a cup of coffee in the league, as did undrafted free agents Trevor Ruffin (Bennett) and Leonard Stokes (One Sunset). […]

  7. hood nigga Says:

    Stokes & all them dudes think they so slick. Remember the streets talk ma brothaz & what the streets saying is “ON DA DOWN LOW” ok answer this question. Hundreds of honest people have tried 2 get BERC cash & no results so here comes a nigga straight off da street welfare & foodstamp getting pro-baller wannabe & he goes 2 city hall show his ass & WHAM BAM. 160 thou & all backdoor activity. Makes u go hum

  8. BLACK PANTHER Says:

    Yo stokes please give me the blueprint on how u played cityhall like a 2dollar crachhoe. Damn nigga let’s take the con on da road I mean here is a nigga with no job no talent no. Business skills yet he went 2 cityhall pimp slap the mayor pull his pimp stick on da small business adminisration. Nigga get paid. Plus he bragged n da hood how he can turn shit into suga with the pimpin game he perfected 4 political people. Stokes let’s go 2 albany da state capital & pimp pimp pimp nigga pleze

  9. 4justice Says:

    Leonard stokes rips tax payers off, body slam his baby mama & gives her 2 blackeyes,has a stolen handicap permit, pistol whip a nigga @ a seedy hotel, drives around with no insurance, don’t pay his employees, & mayor says this is a nigga of promise & greatness damn can I b like stokes???

  10. truthbtold Says:

    Leonard Stokes is 1 hella con man. He did the impossile by pimp slappin mayor brown, pistol whippin another nigga, choke slam his babymama & gave her 2 blackeyes with a busted lip,drive all ove town with a stolen handicap permit in a unisured car,played small business administration like a hood rat & got 50grand,went down 2 cityhall shakin his ass like a salt shaker got went up in but also got 130grand sold property that wasn’t his,got his arm broke & still told niggaz he had a contract with Denver Nuggets worth millions, stole building material from habitat 4 humanity building site, yes nigga we know all the skeletons up n yo closet. Mr stokes when u going 2 come out of the closet??? We know u on DA DOWN LOW. More dirt on u will come soon nigga PROMISE

  11. fruit belt posse Says:

    Stokes u 1 fucked up bitch ass nigga. We all knew n da hood that u ain’t shit & that’s why u never get no RESPECT @ all. U lied bout playing pro basketball u lied bout having money. I can’t wait 2 see u on trial 4 stealing tax payers money,also u should of never shit where u eat. Guess what nigga wait till u find out that we snitched on u & how u stole building material from. A Habitat For Humanity construction site, also how u took all that shit that was not yours from that building & sold it 2 another nigga 2 pay off a person u owed. Stokes word gets around u fucked up & u dirty. Oh yea is it true that u like a stiff 1 up the ass every now & then

  12. Main Street Says:

    Buffalo is the city of Brotherly Love. You don’t kick someone when they are down. There are two sides to every story. We will all have our day to be talked about. What kind of karma do you want to create for you when its your turn? Slow down with the negative language. Can we express ourselves in a better manner. ABOLISH THE N- WORD!

  13. Urban Conspiracy Says:

    HipHop Conspiracy…

    […]Brian Davis, Leonard Stokes and the Failure of One Sunset « Will There Ever Be a Rainbow?[…]…

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