By John Burton
RED BANK — Look for Zebu Forno in a new location in about a month. Finding it shouldn’t take too long as the café is moving just three storefronts on Broad Street.
The downtown eatery is actually moving from 20 Broad Street, where it had operated for 11 years, to 12 Broad, just north of its longstanding location.
Zebu’s owner and proprietor Andrew Gennusa said the reason for the move was because of an ongoing dispute with his former landlord over rent prices.
“They tried to work with us,” Gennusa said of the 20 Broad property owner. “But we just couldn’t afford the rent anymore. And they weren’t willing to work with us to the level that we needed to be worked with to stay in that location.”
The new site, he said, gives his café about the same approximate 2,400 square feet of space but for “literally close to half of the existing rent,” he said, without noting the actual cost.
For Gennusa the move was not a matter he entered into lightly, as he was aware that closing for a number of months could mean the loss of his regular clientele who patronized his location for his coffee and baked goods in the morning and other items for lunch. “But in this case the gain is just so tremendous it was worth the down time,” he said.
The new location and operation will be “virtually identical” to what he had been running, he said. The difference with the new location, Gennusa explained, would be a somewhat more centralized kitchen where sandwiches and entrees would be prepared; in the old location, the counter employees would do it right there, in some regard slowing down the process, he said. Gennusa had been looking for another Broad Street location for a while. “It’s not a secret there’s a lot of locations available on Broad Street,’ given the number of vacancies the business thoroughfare has seen in the last few years, he said. But the deal he received for this spot was the best of the offering. And Gennusa has entered into a 10-year lease for the site. The last couple of years have been tough business-wise, he said, but things have seemed to be turning the corner, not just for his operation but for other spots in the downtown business district. “My expectation is when we reopen we’ll be busier than ever,” he predicted.
His 20 Broad Street location closed on Sept. 12 and the new spot is expected to open at the end of November or early December.
Gennusa’s other site is in Morristown, which operates as a licensed location. Other Zebu Forno sites, such as in Holmdel and Freehold have since closed.