Editor’s note: Read a version of this story and more news of coastal Palm Beach County in the May issue of The Coastal Star.
The infamous line of diners at John G’s restaurant on Lake Worth Beach may soon become a memory. The 34-year-old restaurant will likely move into Callaro’s Prime Steak and Seafood in Plaza del Mar in Manalapan by mid summer, the owners say.
“We haven’t signed the lease but we’re finalizing the deal now,” said Keith Giragos, son of the restaurant’s late founder, John Giragos and partner now with siblings Jay Giragos and Wendy Yarbrough. “We hope to be open by mid-July – that’s the plan right now.”
“We are still not sure what will happen,” said Yarbrough, who manages the line and front of house, while her brothers cook. “We’re collecting names and I’ve had hundreds of calls from our customers. I’ll have a lot of calling to do.”
Casino closing May 31
All the shops in the casino building must move by May 31 when the City of Lake Worth begins their casino rehabilitation and beach redevelopment projects.
It’s a tough call in many regards, she said. “I think, ‘What would Dad do?’ I am really torn, but we’re getting tired,” she said. “I don’t know if I want to start pretty much from scratch, and that’s what it would be.”
Giragos echoed her sentiment. “I’d love to stay here – we have great memories. It’s where we grew up. I love the beach – I really do. We really don’t want to leave,” he said.
Not their first ouster threat
The Girogos family has faced the threat of closing numerous times before, with the city planning to refurbish, or rebuild the casino for nearly the last decade. It’s now a reality; the city approved the $11 million casino and beach project last year. They’ve hired the Morganti Group, Inc., to build it.
“The design is completed for the casino and the construction manager is working on for the project now,” said Kalthleen Margoles, project manager and assistant to Lake Worth City Manager Susan Stanton. It’s slated to reopen in the summer of 2012.
Project is under way, on schedule
“The design is completed for the casino.The construction manager is working on bids so they can guarantee a final maximum price for the project,” said Kalthleen Margoles, project manager and assistant to Lake Worth City Manager Susan Stanton.
Demolition is set for mid-June. Tenants have been asked to leave so work can get started to prepare for the tear down. It’s slated to reopen in the summer of 2012. “We anticipate construction taking 12 months,” Margoles said.
A ceremonial groundbreaking event will be held at 9 a.m. May 7 at the casino for both projects, and the public is invited.
The casino plan is designed around the 1922 designs of the original casino. Blueprints show a two-story casino building with areas for two restaurants and several retail stores on the bottom and one on the second floor, along with a ballroom. Margoles said she was unsure of how much of the original building would be kept in the reconstruction, but some of it will remain.
New parking and a promenade
The beach plans call for new parking areas, new pavilions, new trails, new restaurants, a promenade, and solar panels and windmills for generating energy as well.
“We’re hoping for a LEED certification on the whole project,” Margoles said.
The LEED certificate will mean it’s a “green” project, using sustainable energy and ecologically friendly building materials.
Casino leasing will be offered first to the current tenants, Margoles said. At the May 3 meeting, they were hiring a broker to help draw up contracts and set prices. Though leases are “market driven,” she said, the city is looking for fees from $25 to $35 a square foot on long-term leases.
“We hope to have the tenants locked in within six months,” she said. “Of course, we want John G’s to stay. They’ve indicated they want to stay and we hope they’ll stay.”
Complete build-out required
While there’s a chance the restaurant could move back into the new casino building, it’s not financially feasible with the complete build-out that’s needed, Giragos said. “I looked at just kitchen plans, and with hoods, stoves and all the equipment we’d need, it would be $400,000. That’s just the kitchen. Who has that kind of money today to spend on a building you don’t own? I sure don’t. It doesn’t add up.”
He has issues with the overall plan, too. “I really don’t like the new beach plan – the traffic patterns are different, the meters are going to take credit cards or cell phones – that’s dumb. Not everyone likes to pay with cards. I pay cash. It’s going to be a really different atmosphere there.”
The restaurant serving breakfast and lunch set on the corner of the old casino building has been a casual destination for tourists and locals since it opened in 1973. Cinnamon-nut French toast, gazpacho, huge omelets, and fish-and-chips platters are signature dishes that diners stood in line for. There are no reservations – famous actors and mayors have waited in line with everyone else.
Diners can expect the same menu at the new location, Giragos said “We don’t want to change much at all – if anything, make it better.” As dinner service, it’s possible. “We’ll have that option” in the lease, he said.
The move “will be sad,” Yarbrough said. “But I think our customers would follow us.”
Giragos is sure of it. “It’s only two miles down the beach and in a very nice neighborhood – the Ritz across the street is like the Taj-Mahal. And it’s serene. And parking’s free – the diners will love that.”
He’s not worried about the year-long bridge construction that will halt traffic down Ocean Avenue in Lantana directly to the beach. “Our diners come from all over and they’re already used to coming over the Lake Worth Bridge. Our other diners come from Delray and Deerfield and they can come up A1A – it’s a beautiful drive.”
Yarbrough is hopeful, too. “Just hit Lake Worth Bridge and turn right – they’ll find us.”