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“If Lew Wasserman were alive today he’d buy it,” Larry King tells The Hollywood Reporter when asked about the entertainment industry’s existential crisis of the moment: the possible closure of Nate n’ Al Delicatessen.
Last week, you could practically hear the hand-wringing emanating from Beverly Hills after news spread that the owners of Nate ‘n Al — Mark and David Mendelson — were close to selling the 73-year old deli and that commercial broker Jay Luchs was helping negotiate the deal (Luchs declined comment; David Mendelsohn didn’t return calls seeking comment).
For Nate ‘n Al regulars, all anyone can talk about is the unthinkable. “Like everybody else, I’m hearing a lot of mixed information. Some gives me hope; some of it makes me very sad,” says talent manager Richard Arlook.
The primary question on everyone’s mind is whether the prospective buyer is eyeing the business with the intention of maintaining it or whether they are simply making a play for the real estate. The 5,200-square-foot building in which Nate ‘n Al is located could fetch as much $25 million if not more, according to several brokers. A new owner could also relocate Nate ‘n Al to another building, but most of the regulars interviewed were skeptical that a transfer to a new location could preserve the deli’s special, kindred character.
Former Beverly Hills mayor and City Council member John Mirisch tells THR that he is urging his colleagues to give landmark status to the building at their March 6 meeting. Mirisch also heard rumblings that a consortium of high-powered executives may come in and make a counter-offer to preserve it.
“We are trying to gather information, but I want to explore any and all opportunities that could preserve this treasure for future generations of Beverly Hills residents,” says Mirisch.
King, who used to eat there seven days a week (but now only on Saturdays) is all for Hollywood stepping in to save Nate ‘n Al. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all. Who eats there a lot? Les Moonves. He eats there. Why wouldn’t he buy it? What the hell. It’d be fun.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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