Leo’s Grandevous, Hoboken’s oldest restaurant, kicked off their first day of reopening for outdoor dining by hosting a ribbon cutting with a slew of elected officials.
The restaurant, in business since 1940, remained opened during the past three months by offering take-out and food delivery options necessitated due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the financial challenges presented during these unprecedented times, the establishment managed not to layoff a single staff member.
Now, the ability to serve patrons outside will provide a lifeline for the restaurant to stay in business, according to Leo’s owners.
“We’re really excited and relieved actually because it’s going to be a lifeline for us in order to stay open and keep the doors open on our 80-year old restaurant,” Nick DePalma, a co-owner of the business, said in an interview.
“The people of Hoboken have been so supportive. People who ordered take-out and made food donations to the frontline workers over the past three months, have really sustained us, and it was very, very overwhelming for us to realize how much we are loved,” added Grace Sciancalepore, DePalma’s sister and the other co-owner.
Both owners were on an economic recovery task force that provided input on Hoboken’s Business Recovery Plan, which provides guidance on how restaurants and retail businesses can expand their capacity options.
For example, the sidewalk cafe expansion allows businesses to utilize the sidewalk area in front of the business for seating. As a result, Leo’s placed 10 tables outdoors to accommodate up to 60 customers.
Sciancalepore also said she stressed to city officials that they had to go the extra mile to prevent businesses from being forced to let employees go.
“For the sake of, not only us, but for the sake of our staff. We made a commitment to our staff back in March that we will stay open as long as we were able to, and we closed for one week, but we didn’t lay anybody off, and our kitchen staff has continued working since then.”
Before the ribbon cutting, DePalma noted how drastically the restaurant’s circumstances had changed from May 2019 when they celebrated their 80th anniversary.
“It was just a little bit over a year ago that a lot of us here were right in the street celebrating our 80th anniversary with a fantastic block party, and here we are a little over a year later and we are fighting for survival,” noted DePalma.
He was followed by Mayor Ravi Bhalla, who stressed that the city wants to help businesses be successful, while still being mindful of coronavirus guidelines.
“We want to support our small businesses, and we also want to use all of our real estate at our disposal to help businesses survive, so wether that’s sidewalks, parklets, open plazas, we want to do whatever we can to make it possible for businesses to not just reopen, but reopen and be successful,” he said.
“In order to do that in a socially distance manner, you need space, and that’s what the city Hoboken has at its disposal.”
4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos noted that it was important for the community to support restaurants off of the city’s main business corridor, Washington Street.
“Keep on coming back, not just on Washington Street, but restaurants throughout the rest of Hoboken. They all need our support. We need establishments like Leo’s, Northern Sole and Cafe Sophia, all off of Washington Street, to strive and thrive,” said Ramos.
Additionally, Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano (D-5) said it was very special to him to see Leo’s reopen because he would dine there with family and friends when he was still a kid, with Leo’s founders: Tessy and Leo.
In an interview, Bhalla said that the reopening of Leo’s is just the beginning for the reopening of additional businesses throughout the Mile Square City.
“It’s historic, and it’s part of a gradual reopening process which we hope will expand in the coming weeks and months for the benefit of not just small businesses but all residents in Hoboken.”