by Monica Chamness
Independent Square is finally getting a regular lunch spot.
After several months of sitting vacant, the space that was once housed McAlister’s Gourmet Deli and Jonathan’s has a new tenant.
James Batteh, son of Bay Street Cafe owner and downtown icon Jimmy Batteh, plans to open The Atrium Cafe & Grille in mid-June.
“This is a great opportunity for a business,” said James Batteh. “The location is great, the hours are perfect and there’s potential for a good business.”
After looking at other downtown properties, Batteh selected Independent Square because of the dense working population in the building. He is hoping employees will frequent his restaurant rather than leave the building.
Batteh is confident he can succeed where McAlister’s and Jonathan’s failed.
“The main thing is to keep the overhead down,” he said. “Those places were making money; they just couldn’t keep their costs down.”
Because the site was already designed for a restaurant, Batteh doesn’t anticipate any extensive renovations before he opens. He plans to keep the atmosphere similar to a delicatessen, without the deli case.
Hot and cold sandwiches, salads and specialty items will grace the menu. A full service breakfast and lunch also will be available during the work week. Catering will be part of the operations as well.
Batteh, who owns The Loop at San Pablo Road and Beach Boulevard, is seeking more conventional operating hours. He plans to leave The Loop in the hands of his managers until his downtown venture gains some momentum. Once the Atrium is on solid ground, he anticipates splitting his time evenly between the two restaurants.
“I’m always expanding, looking for more,” he said. “Other locations were available but I believe this one is the most suitable. Downtown is booming. In the next five years, downtown will be transformed. With all the residences, Jacksonville won’t be the same.”
Seating will accommodate approximately 140 diners. To cover the peak hours, Batteh intends to have a staff of seven or eight workers.