One of Gainesville’s longest-standing independent restaurants, which has served pizza to UF students since 1973, may close in about a year.
Leonardo’s By the Slice, located at 1245 W. University Ave., was purchased by the UF Foundation, along with the adjacent Bistro 1245, UF spokesman Steve Orlando wrote in an email. The deal, initiated by the restaurant’s owner, Steve Solomon, requires Leonardo’s to stay open until the summer of 2017.
UF hasn’t determined a timeline or purpose for the property, wrote Lee Nelson, UF’s director of real estate, in an email.
Employees like Shannon Nehiley may have to find a new job when the restaurant closes.
The 21-year-old UF sustainability and built environment senior started working at Leonardo’s By the Slice about a year ago.
Nehiley said if she stays in Gainesville after she graduates this year, she may have to find another job. But like her post-graduation plans, the restaurant’s closing date is unclear.
“Even that date a year from now is not set in stone,” she said. “They don’t automatically tear it down. It might be two years, who knows?”
But the property’s sale didn’t come as a surprise, she said.
“There’s just developments popping up everywhere, especially near the campus,” Nehiley said. “It wasn’t that we didn’t make enough money.”
Meanwhile, students like Ethan Cassidy may have to find a new place to buy their favorite slice of pizza next year.
The 19-year-old UF history sophomore used to walk from his freshman year apartment for a slice of greek pizza. He said he was upset when he heard about the purchase.
“I’m sad about it, mainly,” he said. “It’s my go-to place.”
For other residents, Leonardo’s is another business to go in a line of recent closings on University Avenue.
Gainesville resident Ryan Spivak started eating at Leonardo’s about 20 years ago as a student at Santa Fe College. He remembers when a slice of cheese pizza cost $1.50.
Now, he’s sad to see another business on University Avenue closing.
“It sucks that they’re building these big-ass buildings everywhere,” the 40-year-old said. “It’s kind of annoying that they’re tearing old Gainesville down.”
But he said he hopes Leonardo’s owner will eventually make the pizza available at Leonardo’s 706.
“He’s just going to move into his other restaurant anyway,” he said. “Leo’s is not going away; he’s just moving.”