Athan “Tom” Prakas knew early on that he would be a restaurateur. With his parents and uncles owning 42 restaurants and lounges, he literally grew up in the business. So as soon as Prakas was old enough to get a liquor license, he opened his own restaurant.
But after owning restaurants and clubs for 25 years — over his career he owned 27, usually five at a time — Prakas grew tired of the business, with its long hours and management and employee headaches. So he segued into a new, but related, business: restaurant and nightclub brokerage.
“At onetime I had 500 to 800 employees, and it was just too much,” said Prakas, 50, who lives in Delray Beach. “I wanted to stay involved in the industry, but do something where I wouldn’t be out until 5 in the morning.”
In 2000, Prakas opened The Prakas Group Inc., a Boca Ra¬ton-based brokerage specializing in restaurant and nightclub sales and leases. Today, the company consists of three divisions: business brokerage, commercial real estate broker¬age and restaurant/nightclub brokerage. It handles 45 to 50 restaurant/nightclub deals a year. All of the agents and brokers who work for Prakas have restaurant or nightclub experience or have owned their own businesses.
Prakas now counts some of the industry’s best known restaurant owners and operators among his clients, including David Manero (Solve, Gotham City Restaurant and Shore in Delray Beach); Big Time Restaurant Group (City Cellar in Coral Gables and Big City Tavern in Fort Lauderdale); and Paul Tsiallarnanis (Taverna Opa, with locations in Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale).
“Tom brings a lot of different deals to the table; he has a wide variety of properties that he represents,” said Tim Petrillo, president of The Restaurant People Inc., the Fort Lauderdale-based owner of Tarpon Bend and River House and a Prakas client. “He’s known to landlords and sellers as the go-to guy, especially in the Palm Beach and Broward County areas.”
Petrillo said he previously worked with brokers who were generalists but prefers dealing with a restaurant specialist. “With Tom’s background, he understands the operating costs of a restaurant,” he said. “Some landlords have stars in their eyes when they talk about lease rates, so it’s a benefit to have someone who under-standswhat lease rates need to be in comparison to gross revenues.”
In 2003, Prakas established another company, Boca Brokers Inc., to handle the residential needs of his clients. “It was a natural progression,” Prakas said. “Instead of referring people to a residential brokerage, where we couldn’t control the level of service they receive, I thought we’d just do it ourselves.”
Now Prakas is even getting involved in celebrity restaurants. Last month, in a deal valued at $1.2 million, he represented DeVito South Beach LLC, an entity owned by actor Danny DeVito, in its lease of 9,000 square feet of restaurant space in Miami Beach. DeVito plans to open DeVito’s Italian Restaurant at the site,
And in yet another “natural progression,” Prakas plans to expand the business by open¬ing an Orlando office this year. “You’ve got to stay the course, do what you know best and be persistent,” he said. “If you do what you love, it will all come back to you,”
Robyn A. Friedman // Sun-Sentinel // 1/16/2006