The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on businesses large and small, forcing some to file for bankruptcy and shut down, and others to try and rebound once able to reopen.
As one of Peekskill’s premier businessmen, Louie Lanza was able to ride the three-month wave of the doors to the five restaurants he operates in the city being closed, thanks in large part to the fact he owns the buildings where they exist.
However, that doesn’t mean Lanza didn’t suffer some major financial setbacks. For example, at the Factoria at 5 John Walsh Blvd, Lanza estimates he lost approximately $500,000 with the cancellation of about three dozen weddings and events that were planned prior to the stranglehold of COVID-19.
“I have never experienced anything like this,” said Lanza, 58, who has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years. “It’s scary.”
Coming as no surprise to anyone who knows him, Lanza did not sit idle as everything paused. While taking the time “to get a lot of stuff done that I haven’t had time to get done,” Lanza teamed up with some local chefs and Feeding Westchester, and donated $100,000, to start an initiative called MillionGallons.com—with the mission being to cook a million gallons of soup to those in need.
“It was the right thing to do,” he said. “We knew a lot of people who were unemployed. It was gratifying.”
At the same time, Lanza was battling Lyme disease. Earlier this month he finished 12 weeks of ozone blood infusion therapy.
Now, he is setting his sights on getting his restaurants back on their feet and opening some new eateries. River Outpost Brewing at The Factoria has been a popular destination with its outdoor dining in recent weeks, while Taco Dive Bar is also drawing people eager to enjoy a meal al fresco.
Next to Taco Dive Bar, the former Buns and Bourbon is reopening on July 1 as Bajarito, a Tex-Mex restaurant where diners can make their own burritos. Lanza said the Buns and Bourbon menu will be incorporated into the offerings at The Eagle Saloon on Division Street, which, along with neighboring Hudson Room, will remain closed until the fall.
Meanwhile, on July 31, Lanza is preparing to open a new Italian restaurant called Stazione’s next to the Peekskill Train Station where he boasted “we will have wine there you won’t be able to get anywhere else.”
If that wasn’t enough, Lanza is working on plans to convert the former workmen compensation building in Peekskill’s downtown into a 40-room upscale hotel, with an art museum on the first floor, and is looking to revive the historic Paramount Theater once the coast is clear from COVID-19. All acts at the Paramount through October have been cancelled.
Lanza is determined not to let Peekskill become a ghost town with empty storefronts but conceded some businesses may not be able to recover.
“Some will not make it. That’s unfortunate,” he said. “The downtown is tough to draw people to. You have to be creative. You have to be socially savvy. I want the city to do it right. We have to make sure we’re all on the same page.”