HELL’S KITCHEN, Manhattan (PIX11) – A neighborhood and a community are trying not to say au revoir to a popular and longtime French restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen.
“It’s our life,” said Elyane Bruno, co-owner of Chez Napoléon. “We hope to open very soon.”
Since 1960, Chez Napoléon has been a très petit slice of Paris, one of the oldest French restaurants in New York City, serving hyper-traditional French cuisine like frogs legs and snails. That was until COVID-19 shut it down for eight months during the height of the pandemic.
When Chez Napoléon finally reopened right before its 60th anniversary celebration, gas problems throughout the five-story building on West 50th Street shuttered the restaurant again, closing it down since last December.
“We are like Napoleon, small but tenacious,” said William Welles, Elyane’s son and co-owner of the restaurant.
Welles, who also runs a national goth travel website, and his mother do not want to bid adieu to this three generation labor of love. They say they are currently drowning in a sea of red tape from Con Edison, the New York City Department of Buildings and FDNY inspectors, who are insisting on a new chimney.
After running through $250,000 in restaurant grants and loans to help their staff, Chez Napoléon’s co-owners have set up a GoFundMe page to get them over the final hurdles of permits before they can reopen. So far, more than $10,000 has been donated to the GoFundMe.