Liz and Leon’s new projected opening date is fall 2024. Jones and the Liz and Leon’s team are now looking at spaces in Castleberry Hill. Jones will continue the first look pop-ups geared towards her chef’s table to generate excitement about the upcoming restaurant. Sweet Gigi’s, a “secret juke joint” bar attached to the restaurant, is also still slated to open.
“Castleberry Hill is a thriving neighborhood. It has an amazing buzz and culture. It also is very much an historic neighborhood,” she said.
Jones told Eater Atlanta that German real estate developer Newport RE lost their main investor at the end of 2022, prior to signing with her on the Hotel Row development in February 2023. Newport informed Jones and her team about the lack of funds in April.
Newport ended up selling the property to Atlanta Ventures in December, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jones learned of the sale through a publicist friend.
“I have a really great relationship with the new owners. When we decided to walk away, they were upset but very supportive,” Jones said. “I just could not move forward with Liz and Leon’s because we’re already a year behind and [going] forward would have meant that we might be 2, 3 years behind.” Jones plans to elaborate on the decision further on her podcast, Tales of a Black Culinary.
“After developing a great relationship with Chef Bella over the last month, our number one priority is that she fulfills her entrepreneurial goals and ambitions through honoring her maternal grandparents, Liz and Leon,” said Jon Birdsong, CEO at SoDo Atlanta, LLC. “The negotiated lease she signed with the previous owners did not set her up for success. Hotel Row for the next decade will thrive with quick-serve food and beverage options versus a high-end food concept like Liz and Leon’s. We are thrilled she found a home for it just down the street in Castleberry Hill.”
Birdsong added that Atlanta Ventures’ long-term approach focuses on not just the buildings, but also their relationships with Atlantans.
Jones is working with Atlanta Ventures on a separate project in the South Downtown development: “I know that the vision Atlanta Ventures have for South Downtown is going to be an amazing, thriving, walkable neighborhood and we’re super excited to still be a part of it.”
This article has been update to include commentary from Atlanta Ventures.