North Palm picks new clubhouse restaurant operator after Luger debacle

June 02, 2018
Exterior of North Palm Beach Country Club Clubhouse, Tuesday, April 25, 2017. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

Village officials picked a new restaurant operator for the Country Club opening in 2019, putting the legal fight over the Luger steakhouse name behind them.

RELATED: North Palm Beach kills deal to bring Luger steakhouse to clubhouse

Last summer, the village killed a deal with Carl Von Luger Steak & Seafood, of Scranton, Pa., after the famous Peter Luger Steak House of New York sued Carl Von Luger in federal court for trademark infringement.

RELATED: Peter Luger Steak House sues eatery set for North Palm Beach

Instead, the Village Council chose Declan Hoctor, the owner and operator of The Bistro in Jupiter, to run the restaurant in the new club. The council followed an evaluation committee’s recommendation when it chose Hoctor’s Roly’s at Dublin, LLC, over Randy Epstein’s Fairways & Greens 5-star Hospitality.

Epstein ran the club’s restaurant from 2016 until it closed in April to prepare for demolition. He included letters of recommendation from former Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus, who is a North Palm Beach resident, and Jack and Barbara Nicklaus.

Two residents who spoke at the May 24 Village Council meeting said it was time for a change.

“My friends are looking for something different,” Mary Whisler said. “I don’t believe what we’ve had up until now has worked.”

She said Hoctor has innovative ideas, a consistent staff and “exceptional” food at The Bistro.

Hoctor came to northern Palm Beach County from Ireland to oversee the construction and opening of a Roly’s Bistro here in 1998. A few years later, he sold the location in the Shoppes of Oakbrook to Duffy’s, he told the council.

Hoctor has owned and operated The Bistro since 2002, according to his resume. The restaurant is in the Driftwood Plaza on the east side of U.S. 1., north of The Bluffs and south of Jupiter Ocean-Racquet Club.

Several residents spoke in support of Epstein, citing his track record of quality food, personability and fair prices. Susan Filardo said at the end of her women’s golf events, golfers patronized the restaurant because of its affordable menu.

They were able to get a buffet for $10 and a full dinner for $15 to $20 after their “nine and dine” events. If the food gets expensive, people aren’t likely to stay after golf, she said.

“The village of North Palm Beach is not just those houses that are in Harbour Isles or over on the east side of Route 1,” Filardo said. “It also encompasses a lot of other homes and families that may not be quite as fortunate.”

Hoctor acknowledged The Bistro’s reputation may worry some people, thinking the Country Club will be only high-end cuisine. His team has plenty of experience with burgers, sandwiches and quality salads that will “appeal to the masses” and still maintain profitability, he said.

The village will have its voice choosing the menu, hours, atmosphere, entertainment and events at the club, he said.

The clubhouse can be a venue for family occasions such as weddings, graduations, birthdays and anniversary celebrations. The restaurant typically has special events for Easter, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day and other holidays.

Hoctor’s proposal said he anticipates a blend of “cheap and cheerful” food such as tacos and gaucamole, sushi, burgers and sandwiches, along with “comfort food” such as fish and chips, Kerry lamb pie and chicken pot pie.

For diners seeking a more high-end menu, he plans to offer freshwater fish, steak and chop, lobster and sushi-grade tuna.

Roly’s at Dublin’s proposal called for the village to pitch in $100,000 for equipment. The restaurant would pay the village $5,000 per month for rent, and the village would get 4 percent of the first $2 million in gross revenue, 3 percent of the third $1 million and 2 percent of the fourth $1 million, should profits go that high.

Fairways & Greens asked for a contribution of $120,000 for equipment and $300,000 for working capital. The company would pay the village $4,000 a month rent, and the village would get 3 percent of all food and beverage and banquet gross revenue, plus 40 percent of banquet room rental gross revenue.

The evaluation committee said the revenue proposals weren’t the deciding factor in its recommendation.

The village manager and attorney will negotiate an agreement with Roly’s at Dublin. If they are unable to reach one, they will go back to Epstein’s company.