Owner of Middle Eastern restaurant buys iconic Libby's Lunch site in Paterson (northjersey.com)

Owner of Middle Eastern restaurant buys iconic Libby’s Lunch site in Paterson (northjersey.com)

PATERSON PRESS-Joe Malinconico

PATERSON — The owner of a Clifton restaurant where the menu features Middle Eastern smoked meats emerged as the high bidder on Tuesday to buy the iconic Libby’s Lunch hot dogs property at Paterson’s Great Falls, officials said.

In an online auction, Sal Washah outbid several other restaurant businesses by making a commitment to spend $850,000 to acquire the Libby’s property from the city of Paterson, officials said.

Mayor Andre Sayegh was jubilant over the outcome of the auction, conducted by Max Spann Real Estate, for a property assessed at $525,000.

“Once again, we exceeded expectations,” the mayor said of the high bid. “We want to make Paterson a destination for foodies and attract more visitors to the Great Falls.”

Washah said he plans to demolish the Libby’s structure and construct a new three- or four-story business overlooking the Passaic River and Great Falls. It would include a cafe with pastries as well as restaurant dining, including sandwiches and smoked meats “with a Middle Eastern touch.”

“It will be a place anybody can bring his spouse or his family,” said Washah, a retired professor from the New Jersey Institute of Technology who is part-owner of Kanoon on Hazel Street in Clifton.

Washah said he hopes to open his new business in six months.

“It’s a high price,” he said of his $850,000 bid, “but I wanted it very bad.”

Libby’s, which opened in 1936, shut down in 2020 amid the pandemic. City officials and community leaders disagreed over whether the city should sell a property that some described as a gold mine.

'Not in favor of selling your assets'

Councilman Michael Jackson, Sayegh’s primary critic, said Paterson got shortchanged in the auction.

“Number one, I’m not in favor of selling off your assets,” Jackson said. “Number two, it’s going to become much more valuable when the Falls is fully done.”

Even longtime Sayegh supporter Michael Symonds said selling Libby’s was “shortsighted” because of the financial potential of opening a restaurant at the site as development grows around the Great Falls.

During the past year, Paterson has reopened Hinchliffe Stadium, on the other side of the river, and unveiled a new museum at the historic ballpark. The city is finishing work on a major expansion of the national park, which officials said would open in the next few months. Sayegh is also looking to build a state-of-the-art visitor center in the Overlook section of the park.

Second Ward Councilman Shahin Khalique, who represents the district where Libby’s is, said the auction price was higher than expected.

“It goes to show that Paterson is in growth mode, and more investors want to be a part of the progress,” Khalique said.

The sale still needs approval from the City Council before it becomes final. Sayegh said he would get that vote to the council as soon as possible.



Published: 3:30 pm ET April 30, 2024 | Updated 5:04 pm ET April 30, 2024 

Sal Washah, owner of Kanoon in Clifton, will replace the Libby's Lunch building with a restaurant and cafe. overlooking the Great Falls in Paterson.

northjersey.com: https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/paterson-press/2024/04/30/libbys-lunch-site-paterson-nj-sold-middle-eastern-restaurant-auction/73516486007/