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Chez Napoleon was finally given the go-ahead to reopen on Tuesday afternoon, after a 12-minute inspection ended a 358-day snafu. Con Edison inspectors approved turning the gas back on, allowing the beloved Hell’s Kitchen French standard to plan to reopen on December 1 — a week short of a full year since it was forced to shut down.
W42ST has kept the spotlight on the closure, which started with a faulty gas meter and turned into a Kafka-esqe bureaucratic nightmare for William Welles and his mother Elyane Bruno, who have run the W50th Street restaurant for 40 years.
On November 3, we revealed that Elyane and William had set a make-or-break deadline of November 30 for the restaurant’s future: if they were still fighting red tape by then, they would need to make the heartbreaking decision to close. But on Tuesday, that possibility was thankfully taken off the agenda.
And in the end, it was William who had to rush to be at the restaurant, a day earlier than he had expected for the Con Edison inspection. “The roughest part is that you keep waiting and waiting,” said William. “But as soon as something happens and it’s like boom-boom-boom, you have to be here!”
After a Zoom call with City Council Member Erik Bottcher’s office, the Department of Buildings, and the FDNY, “We were told we’d get the gas back on Wednesday at the earliest,” said William. “But this morning, my mother woke up and told me they’d contacted her and they’d be in this afternoon!”
Rushing into Manhattan from Queens, William arrived to find plumbers waiting for Con Edison — after all the rush, was it a false alarm? “We’re waiting, and we’re waiting, and finally we called Con Edison,” said William. “Their dispatcher said ‘Oh I didn’t know we had to do this today, we’ll send someone over’ — it’s just never ending, even when you’re at the finish line.”
In the end, the faulty gas meter that kicked off the long shutdown was the last piece of the puzzle. “The whole problem in the first place was the meter, and it’s the last thing they put on,” said William.
He wondered how long this seemingly simple repair would have taken in a world where navigating the city’s maze-like approvals process functioned as it should. “All in all, I think if everything would’ve worked systematically — it probably would’ve been a three week closure,” said William.
HOW W42ST KEPT CHEZ NAPOLEON’S RED-TAPE FIASCO IN THE SPOTLIGHT
“It was such a long process. I can’t imagine where we would be at if I didn’t have help from the city and Erik Bottcher’s office,” he said, also adding that local Hell’s Kitchen business owners like Robert Guarino of Marseille and 5 Napkin Burger were crucially supportive. “Robert did an email blast to his list of Marseille clientele, and we got a great amount of donations just yesterday, which was a huge help.”
Donations collected by the restaurant’s GoFundMe will help kickstart Chez Napoleon’s road to reopening, he said, as the need to restock, reimburse repairs and re-staff the restaurant will require significant upfront funding.
“There’s still work ahead. Today’s a red letter day, but there are still some tough times ahead,” said William. “But I’m looking forward to working and getting back into the groove of normal life.”
He told W42ST that they plan to layer back in menu items and service capacity as they get their bearings, but they’re used to the process of a hard reboot after COVID-19 and the subsequent restaurant closures. “We have done this already,” said William, “and we want to see where we are along the way and make sure we can get things running smoothly — this is like opening a brand new restaurant again.”
Despite the road ahead, William said that he and his mother were thrilled to have this chapter behind them. “The worst of it’s done. But now, the work begins,” said William. “But it’s nice to be back open and be part of Hell’s Kitchen again.”
Toutes nos félicitations, Chez Napoleon!
So very happy to hear this!
Good to see that a neighborhood staple will be back soon!
Yay!!! Been patiently waiting to see that OPEN sign on your door!
Hoorah! “I want the frim fram sauce with the ausen fay. With shafafa on the side.”
My favorite place. Can’t wait to have some venison!
So thrilled that this gem of a restaurant will be reopening. I can’t wait to get back in there.
So heartening to learn of neighbors & other businesses assisting!
Three cheers to Erik Bottcher, all who contributed & W42St.com for the needed publicity!
Thanks to all and to W. 42nd St. We live in Chelsea and didn’t know about Chez Napoleon. Now that we do, allons y!
I have NO DOUBT that the continued coverage of this story helped push things along (thank you, W42ST!). My co-op has been struggling for 2 years for a permit to replace our boiler and each winter are in jeopardy of having no heat, in spite of begging the city to tell us what else they need. NYC bureaucracy is disgraceful!! Congrats to Chez N for their success. I will be going there soon to show my support.
I am ecstatic about this. When will you reopen?????
bravo cant wait to come back and have the great dishes.
Great for the neighborhood. Congratulations.
Can’t help wondering what it is about the City’s bureaucracy that delayed the reopening for over a year. Disgraceful.
I am so glad you’ve been able to reopen! I first came to Chez Napoleon around 1956, and have had many many lovely evening with you! I’ve been away from the city because of the pandemic, so only just heard what a hard time you’ve been through! I’m so sorry! Is your Go Fund Me still operating? I’ll call to find out. Wish you a great 2023…and ever after!
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