Karatossos prepares to open another Fla. outpost

BOCA RATON Fla. Pano Karatassos, founder and chief executive of Atlanta-based Buckhead Life Restaurant Group and one of the country’s most successful restaurateurs, hinted months ago that he was interested in extending his Florida holdings beyond the five-month-old Chops Lobster Bar in Boca Raton. He took a step in that direction this week by purchasing Pete’s Restaurant, a waterfront establishment operating here since 1988.

Pete’s is believed to be the largest restaurant in the city, with 15,000 square feet and seating for approximately 550 guests. It sits on a lake and was founded 19 years ago by restaurateur Pete Boinis, who is retiring.

Karatassos, who has been in business in Atlanta for 28 years, declined comment on the cost of the restaurant, but a broker reportedly said it was a $2 million deal.

Karatassos said the new restaurant would be a more upscale version of Atlanta Fish Market, one of the oldest concepts in Buckhead Life’s portfolio. It will be redesigned by Bill Johnson of The Johnson Studio in Atlanta, which has designed several Buckhead Life properties.

The planned renovation calls for gutting the interior, including the kitchen. Additions to the existing structure will include an open kitchen, a retail market, light wood and tile. It is expected to cost $3 million to $4 million and take six months, with an opening planned for March. Karatassos plans to keep the banquet rooms for catering and private events.

The as-yet-unnamed concept’s new retail market will allow customers to buy fresh fish to take home, raw or cooked to order.

Jennifer Boozer, director of marketing for Buckhead Life, said that the group had not been looking for another concept specifically in Boca Raton. “But with Boinis retiring, the opportunity and location with panoramic lake views was too great to pass up,” she said.

Karatassos said that he sees the project as a natural next step for Buckhead Life.

“Boca Raton is a terrific market for us, because it has sophisticated guests who appreciate great food and great service,” he said. “We are excited to have found such a prime location that suits our needs so perfectly – I know guests will be happy with what we have planned.”

Added Boozer: “We are learning the market in Boca Raton, which is turning out to be a terrific situation for us. Guests are responding to our caliber of food and service.”

Until recently, Karatassos' growing empire was confined to Atlanta and its environs. Things changed in March, however, when Buckhead Life opened Chops in Boca Raton, the first step of what the company said would be a national rollout of that concept.

Atlanta-based Buckhead Life’s hometown restaurants include Pano's & Paul's, which first opened in 1979, as well as The Fish Market, 103 West, Pricci, the Buckhead Diner, Chops, Lobster Bar at Chops, The Club at Chops, Veni Vidi Vici, Buckhead Bread Co. and Corner Cafe, Nava, Bluepointe and Kyma.