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Legendary delicatessen Nate’n Al’s — a Cheers for Hollywood’s power players — has shuttered.
Opened in 1945, the Beverly Hills institution was known as much for its beloved longtime staff as its high-priced pastrami and lox.
On Saturday, the restaurant published a note to its Instagram account which made clear that the COVID-19 epidemic’s economic shockwave was responsible for the closure. “We had hoped that we could continue our take out and delivery service so that we could provide the community with the food that has been a part of our lives for years,” it read. “However, our number one priority is to keep our customers and our staff safe and secure during this time of uncertainty. After reviewing all the variables, we no longer feel confident that we can do that. It is with great sadness that we will be closing our doors for all business as of tomorrow, Sunday, March 29th at 8 pm.”
The message concluded: “We don’t know what the future holds but we urge everyone to do your best to stay home and stay safe.”
Initial media reports interpreted the Nate’n Al’s announcement as a potentially permanent closure. On Sunday, the restaurant issued a further communication, which sought to clarify the matter: “Our current lease is expiring shortly and we have encountered major difficulties with the City of Beverly Hills, who would have been our new landlord on Canon Drive. It is the intention of the current ownership to get through this crisis like every other restaurant and make the right decisions at the right time. Our goal is to keep the Nate’n Al’s tradition alive.”
The decision comes a year after Mark and David Mendelson, descendants of founder Al, sold the deli in 2019 to a high-profile investor team led by music mogul couple Irving and Shelli Azoff. (The rest of the consortium included Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Jeff Shell as well as nightlife industry entrepreneur Rande Gerber and his wife Cindy Crawford.) The new group had previously announced a plan to relocate Nate’n Al’s from its Beverly Drive address to a nearby location on Canon Drive which had been occupied by Wolfgang’s Steakhouse.
Other local landmark area delis, like Langer’s and Brent’s, garnered more acclaim for their food. None were anywhere near such constant draws for the entertainment business elite, from the days of Tony Curtis and Sammy Davis Jr. to Jeffrey Katzenberg and Stacey Snider. Nate’n Al’s served as a Los Angeles refuge for a regular stream of the New York diaspora — Billy Crystal, Neil Simon, Stan Lee, Larry King — and a center of influence for the mogul who arguably made it a Hollywood haven, Lew Wasserman, whose MCA headquarters was located nearby.
TV producer and director George Schlatter, who produced Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, recalls that “more deals, including Laugh-In, were made at Nate’n Al’s than anyplace else: it was responsible for the high cholesterol levels for agents, managers, executives, lawyers, press agents and performers.” Now that the deli’s gone he isn’t ready to move on. “I may just get a sandwich and sit down in front of Nate’n Al’s.”
It’s an emotional wallop for many regulars. “When I first met my wife, Stacey, 42 years ago, she was the one who took me to Nate’n Al’s for the first time,” actor Henry Winkler tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Stacey had been going there for her whole life. We took our children there from the time they were babies and took our grandchildren there on Sundays. Gloria [Leon] was our waitress and became our friend from day one until the last day. It is so sad that an icon, a tradition for so many Los Angelinos, will disappear forever. It’s heartbreaking.”
Leon, who logged a 41-year tenure at the deli, recalls that her first customer was Joey Bishop’s agent. She quickly learned that “when people came in here, they weren’t executives at Universal or an Oscar-winning actress, they were just people — that’s the kind of restaurant this is.”
The shuttering has been especially challenging for Leon because the pandemic-prompted departure was so abrupt. She’d long envisioned the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to her longtime customers. “It’s been overwhelming for me,” says Leon. “This place has been home to people. Many grew up here.” (Over the years she has attended customers’ brises, bar mitzvahs, weddings and funerals.)
WME partner Richard Weitz, a devoted regular who lives a few blocks away, observes that “it’s been a watering hole for so many. You bring your kids here, your wife, your clients, your colleagues. Everyone knows your name. It’s very sad that this is happening.”
To all our Customers: Approximately one month ago the world as we knew it changed. We had hoped that we could continue our take out and delivery service so that we could provide the community with the food that has been a part of our lives for years. However, our number one priority is to keep our customers and our staff safe and secure during this time of uncertainty. After reviewing all the variables, we no longer feel confident that we can do that. It is with great sadness that we will be closing our doors for all business as of tomorrow, Sunday, March 29th at 8 pm. Thank you all for being a part of the Nate’n Al’s family and a special thank you to our employees who have worked tirelessly to be here so that we all have continued to have our favorites available! We don’t know what the future holds but we urge everyone to do your best to stay home and stay safe. Sincerely, Nate’n Al’s
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