“I think White Plains and Yonkers are so big, they had to sell out in some ways. Peekskill is going to be the coolest, most cultural city in Westchester,” says Louie Lanza when prompted about what the future holds for the city he’s been gobbling up. It’s a bold statement, but Lanza, who co-owns more than 20 buildings, including the six-restaurant Hudson Hospitality Group, is heavily invested in the city’s transformation.
“I’m a restaurateur my whole life. That’s what comes to me most naturally,” says Lanza, who began investing in NYC restaurants in the mid-’80s. After the economic meltdown in the late 2000s, he moved to Garrison, opened the Hot Rod Hotel in Buchanan, and started spending time in Peekskill. “I thought, What a cool city. Why hasn’t it changed in all these years?” he recalls. “I sold an apartment in the city and had to do something with the money, so I bought seven buildings in Peekskill. Every building had major issues. I couldn’t rent
them out, so we opened [restaurant/lounge] The Hudson Room.”
Taco Dive Bar
Photo by Enourmous Creative
Over the next two years, taco-and-tequila joint Taco Dive Barand whiskey-focused Buns-N-Bourbon opened in adjacent buildings alongthe Peekskill waterfront. Not long after came The Eagle Saloon and sprawling entertainment complex Factoria, co-owned by fellow Peekskill restaurateur John Sharp and Captain Lawrence’s Scott Vaccaro, which includes fine-dining Fin & Brew and River Outpost Brewing Co.
But Lanza is also investing in the community. Last summer, he partnered with the Peekskill Police Department on a $15,000 gun-buy-back program. He works with Latin restaurateurs in the community, teaching key business skills. And he’s in talks with Westchester Community College and Peekskill High School to build a boutique hotel that would become a culinary- and hospitality-incubator program for local students.
Also in the works is Stazione, which Lanza describes as “pizza, an Italian version of Chopt, and an incredible wine selection,” which is slated to open in the Peekskill Metro-North station later this year. After that, Lanza plans to spend some time focusing on other, non-restaurant projects. “Restaurants are not paying my bills at this time,” he says, noting that it’s other real estate developments that keep his lights on. “But they’ve built the confidence in Peekskill for people to invest and come here.”