Experts and even laymen love to bat about the old adage that half of all small businesses tend to fail within the first five years. That’s why we’re always proud to tout long-lived Westchester businesses. Typically smaller, family-run operations, it’s nice to point out a local mainstay. It’s rarer, however, to find a local business that uses its soapbox to give back to the community that fosters it.
This May, White Plains’ City Limits Diner celebrates its 25th anniversary. After a quarter-century in business, the Livanos family — who own City Limits as well as Moderne Barn in Armonk and a quartet of New York City restaurants — knew they had to do something special not just for their business, but for the people they’ve worked with and fed along the way.
First, the diner will be offering a 25% discount to all dine-in customers on the actual anniversary date of May 24, along with a big party and live music.
Moreover, all month long, guests at the diner can purchase raffle tickets to win one of 25 prizes supplied by local and regional businesses, including cryotherapy sessions by Nordic Edge, a Chanel gift pack and master class from Lord & Taylor Eastchester, and private wine tastings at Westchester Wine Warehouse. What’s more, 100% of the proceeds from raffle sales go directly to help fund two local charities: Feeding Westchester, and Family Services of Westchester.
We sat down with Nick Livanos, Owner of the Livanos Restaurant Group and son of its patriarch, John Livanos, to find out more about this unique birthday celebration.
First of all, congratulations on hitting such a big milestone. 25 years is a massive accomplishment.
Nick Livanos: I cant believe it went that fast. It’s the nature of City Limits.
Where else can you get a real, quality breakfast at anytime of the day? And with special things that we do like our own smokehouse — we have amazing house-smoked salmon that we’ve been doing from day one — and we serve pure Vermont maple syrup. People love that and it’s, I think, what continues to keep us successful and full and with a very, very loyal clientele, with people that dine here every day, twice a day, six days, seven days a week. It’s unique. It’s different from our other restaurants.
How did you decide that you wanted to make City Limits’ 25th anniversary about giving back not just to your diners, but the Westchester community at large?
NL: It’s a big deal, 25 years, and we are such an integral part of Westchester County. We all live in Westchester, and for many, many years. I’m living in Westchester now … 35, 37 years? My siblings, my parents … all our good friends, my church community, everybody. We’re very much a part of the county with White Plains being the center of it all. What do we do, put some balloons out and put some flags outside, just do our 25-year anniversary?
It was important to do something more significant and not just simply draw attention that we’re here 25 years, but to give something back and by doing it two ways: by giving a 25% discount all day, and of course the charity gifts that we’re doing. What I’m so impressed by is all our business friends and all the phone calls that we made. Everyone responded. It was the support and love we felt for it that was wonderful.
You could have easily called it a day there, but you also sourced a lot of your raffle prizes from Westchester-based and other regionally local businesses. Why was it important for you to partner up with places like Nordic Edge and Lord & Taylor?
NL: We basically have friends in all the different businesses. When we were in The Westchester, Neiman Marcus was our neighbor. We know one of the managers from Lord & Taylor. We know so many of the local businesses, so it was fairly easy to reach out. Most of them are customers also. People are always being solicited or your business is always being asked for something, so we were extra-sensitive in how we asked. ‘This is what we’re doing. What do you think, would you like maybe to possibly participate?’ and we got so many resounding yeses. That shows you the community feeling where we live and how special it really is.
What made you choose Feeding Westchester and Family Services of Westchester as the groups you wanted to raise money for?
NL: They’re definitely a critical parts of Westchester County. Every so often you read about Westchester County, one of most affluent places to live in the United States, and there is quite a large population that’s living barely above the poverty line, barely able to make it, and people go hungry. Here we are, a food businesses feeding a good 7,000 people a week, and it doesn’t seem right that other people are going hungry. So that was that was an easy decision.
Family Services, they’re filling a big void, meeting all different needs, all different ages — children, teens, adults, and the elderly — helping with healthcare, mental health needs, etc.
You’re also giving back to regular customers with 25% off dine-in orders, just for coming in on your anniversary. So does that mean in 2044 we can come back for half-off everything?
NL: Haha! I’m gonna put that out for now. I know my dad will get a kick out of that. He’ll say, “If I’m around, absolutely.”
I work with my brother and my sister, you know. We’ve been working together for 35 years. My dad is still active and near us, and my two older sons are have entered the restaurant business. That’s what’s most special about being able to work with the family. So many of our staff here have been here a very long time, including the executive chef from Day One and other staff members that have been here basically from Day One, so that makes it even more special.
Diners can come out to enjoy everything City Limits Diner has to offer, and receive 25% off their entire bill on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, May 24. Raffles tickets can be purchased at City Limits Diner from now through the official anniversary celebration, when winners will be announced.