Nate'n Al's Owner Shelli Azoff on Resolving Deli's Lease for Now, Plans for Takeout

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The Beverly Hills institution is partially reopening Friday with 23 employees (down from its pre-pandemic 90 staffers) handling its reordering system.

Six weeks after closing due to COVID-19 as well as unrelated lease difficulties, Nate'n Al's is back. The 75-year-old Beverly Hills deli, a beloved institution among generations of Hollywood heavyweights, reopens with reduced hours Friday for takeout and delivery.

Its streamlined, pandemic-era menu features key "favorites" — including potato latkes, chopped chicken liver and whitefish salad — as well as new family-style offerings. "I can't wait to help get people their much-loved classic foods," says Gloria Leon, a Nate'n Al's server for more than four decades (with a dedicated power-player fan base, from Casey Wasserman to Jeffrey Katzenberg), who is among the slimmed-down staff handling the ordering system.

The restaurant is run by music mogul couple Irving and Shelli Azoff, whose portfolio also includes West L.A. dining landmark The Apple Pan, which itself made a much quicker transition in mid-March to the takeout and delivery model for the first time in its own 73-year history.

Shelli spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the return.

What brought Nate'n Al's back after its six-week absence?

Originally, our lease was up on June 1, so we didn't think we had much longer to go anyway. But after speaking with our landlord, Steve Cloobeck [the timeshare resort company founder and prominent Democrat Party donor], who's a longtime friend of mine, we realized we could make things work.

So how long will the deli be staying?

It's not a written contract deal; it's a handshake deal. The Cloobecks have other plans for the space. We have other plans for Nate'n Al's. So the plans are day-by-day. For now, in the middle of this pandemic, this works for all of us.

Nate'n Al's is known for its staff. Who's working again?

We gave offers based on seniority. We have 23 employees now. Before, when we were at full hours, and full dine-in capacity, it was almost 90. Some of our servers are filling in at Apple Pan. Others have made the choice that they weren't ready to come back yet, given what's going on [with the virus], but they were offered the opportunity.

Regulars went into mourning when the restaurant closed.

I was actually surprised by just how many calls we got. It was crazy. My family members were getting calls. They just kept coming.

People are craving their comfort food. Speaking of, what about you?

My husband and I are both huge fans of the matzo brei. He also eats a lot of the turkey burgers and the chicken pot pies. For me, it's the tuna fish. Jen Meyer just texted me: "Nate'n Al's tuna fish!"

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.