Prather buying Bistro 1860, but no changes planned

Restaurateur Doug Prather, who bought Bistro 301 last summer, is buying Bistro 1860 from owners Terry Fereday and Ron Kayrouz.

A private investor is backing Prather in the deal, which will see the restaurant change ownership officially Jan. 1. Sale price was not disclosed.

Doug Prather, owner, Bistro 301. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Doug Prather, owner, Bistro 301. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Along with operating partner and executive chef Michael Crouch, Fereday and Kayrouz opened the restaurant four years ago to rave reviews and strong business bolstered by some of the most imaginative multicourse prix fixe meals in the city.

According to Prather, the restaurant was not on the market when the outside chance to buy it arose. When a mutual friend of his and Kayrouz’s sensed Kayrouz might be interested in selling, he got the men together.

“Fourteen hours later, we were on a conference call asking, ‘What do you want for it?’” Prather recalled. “Ron said, ‘I think it’s worth this,’ and I said, ‘I’ll take it.’ Three days later, we had a letter of intent.”

Prather said Bistro 1860 is one of his favorite Louisville restaurants, “so I have no plans to change such a beautiful place. … It is virtually turnkey for me.” He does plan to remove a wall in its second floor Camel Lounge to make it more amenable to hosting private parties, “but there’s nothing that needs changing about any of the rest of it. I don’t see anything broken at all.”

Prather said he and Crouch have discussed the handoff and that the talented chef will remain at the restaurant.

“Other than doing my due diligence and making sure the lease worked, I had to make sure Michael Crouch was in,” he said. “You just let a guy like that run his kitchen. There’s no reason for me to change all the positive stuff going on there.”

After nearly four decades in the business, Kayrouz said he’s happy to be stepping away from restaurants. But he won’t guarantee this is his last eatery.

“I said that last time I got out, and I guess that didn’t happen,” he said. Acknowledging that he and wife, Dr. Ilana Kayrouz will soon be empty-nesters, he said he’s looking forward to evenings at home with her. “According to my wife, I’m done. But can’t say I’m sure.”

Some of Ron Kayrouz's handiwork in the Bistro 1860 garden patio.

Some of Ron Kayrouz’s handiwork in the Bistro 1860 garden patio, the site of many of Crouch’s outdoor dinners.

Prather, on the other hand, is open to more restaurant purchases. The longtime chain restaurant management veteran sees emerging opportunities in Louisville to buy independent restaurants that are good brands, but that might not be operating at maximum potential.

“It’s a tough time in restaurants, and you see some people in retreat, but I’m charging full speed ahead,” he said. “If you have the financial means to get through a little bit of a recession in this business right now, I believe the payoff will come in about 18 months.”

Though Fereday is retiring, Kayrouz plans to turn his landscaping hobby into a business. His work, which is on display in front of Bistro 1860, has caught the eyes of a few customers who hired him to landscape their homes.

“The funny thing is customers are always asking me who does it at the restaurant, and when I say, ‘Me,’ they still say, ‘No, really, who does it?’” he laughed. Turns out he’ll still be doing it when Prather takes over. “I like doing it, so we’ll see where all this goes.”

Kayrouz insists there won’t be a good-bye party—“That’s just not me”—but that maybe some cocktails will be shared with friends before his final night on Dec. 23.

“We had four good years here, but I think it’s time,” he said. “Nearly everybody who works here now has been here from the beginning, or pretty soon after. We’re all like family, so leaving will be bittersweet.”

Doug Prather’s Plans for 301; 20 Years with Sal Rubino at The Cafe

With a number of restaurants closing this week, Steve and Rick had plenty to talk about, from the high-profile shutdown of Doc Cantina to the loss of a prominent chain store on Hurstbourne. Is it part of a national trend? We’re not sure, but we’re confident that the Applebee’s shuttering won’t be the last for national chains in the area. Steve has some insight into the decision by Sullivan University to let go of a 28-year veteran of its Baking and Pastry Arts program, a departure that could impact its students.  And we both got an advance peek at the new Total Wine & More retail location in the Paddock Shops, and came away impressed with the variety, pricing and customer-engagement approach of the 140-store chain of beverage stores.

Steve’s interview is with the new owner of Bistro 301, Doug Prather, who has deep restaurant management experience to bring some excitement to a downtown location that’s had its ups and downs under two previous owners.

In our popular Favorites segment, Steve raves about a cocktail at Mesh, while Rick’s choice of a Skinny Margarita at Drake’s was met with some good-natured laughter. At the newly reopened Oakroom, Steve enjoyed an upscale meal featuring charred octopus. Rick got a nice recommendation for lunch at The Cafe from Sal Rubino, his interview subject for the show.

Rubino is celebrating 20 years operating The Cafe with his wife Cindy, who he met at culinary school in Miami. The breakfast/lunch spot is thriving despite an off-the-beaten path location just off Broadway and Barrett. Sal tells some tales from his three decades of history in the local restaurant business.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Doug Prather at Bistro 301

edt22salrubino

Sal Rubino at The Cafe