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.
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.”
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.”