2015-02-19 / Front Page

Another Waterfront Icon is Sold

By Olga Enger


The Kyriakedes bought Johnny’s House of Seafood from John Kallias in 1977. In 1992, the brothers also bought Seven Seas and renamed it the Atlantic Beach Club. A renovation combined the structures into Johnny’s Atlantic Beach Club in 1996. The Kyriakedes bought Johnny’s House of Seafood from John Kallias in 1977. In 1992, the brothers also bought Seven Seas and renamed it the Atlantic Beach Club. A renovation combined the structures into Johnny’s Atlantic Beach Club in 1996. The owners of a local historic seaside institution may soon hand over their keys. Staff at Johnny’s Atlantic Beach Club in Middletown confirmed that the owners, Peter and Harry Kyriakedes, have agreed to sell the business to Jim Apteker, owner of Belle Mer on Goat Island in Newport. Apteker would be just the third owner since Johnny’s first opened its doors in the 1920s.

Apteker, who is buying the property for an undisclosed amount, is the CEO of Longwood Events, a special-event company behind high-end function facilities in Boston as well as Belle Mer.

The Kyriakedes and Apteker declined to comment on the transaction, citing the pending purchase and sale agreement.

The Kyriakedes brothers also own neighboring Tickets Sports Bar as well as six local hotels. In April, they gained approval from the Middletown Planning Board to build a 198-room hotel on their Seaview Inn property, next to the Aquidneck Corporate Park.

Johnny’s first opened as Johnny’s Middletown Spa in the late 1920s, which provided private booths for bathers, sweethearts and bootleggers during Prohibition. It was rebuilt after Hurricane Carol swept the structures a half-mile down the road in 1954. Still under its original owner, the Middletown Spa was renamed to Johnny’s House of Seafood in 1960.

A local watering hole, Seven Seas Restaurant, was located directly to the left of Johnny’s.

“Seven Seas was a Navy joint. Kind of seedy, and not many tourists,” recalled Ken Lacey, who worked in the parking lot in the late 1980s and currently owns Easton’s Point Pub around the corner. “They had good seafood and entertainment on the weekends. Beach parking was $10 then, same as I charge today. It really hasn’t gone up,” he laughed.

The popular surf shop Waterbrothers, which is now located on Memorial Boulevard in Newport, used to rent space from Seven Seas.

“Sid Abruzzi sold and rented surfboards out of a shack where the bathrooms are now,” said Lacey. “That’s where it all started for a lot of us.”

The Kyriakedes bought Johnny’s House of Seafood from John Kallias in 1977. In 1992, the brothers also bought Seven Seas and renamed it the Atlantic Beach Club. A renovation combined the structures into Johnny’s Atlantic Beach Club in 1996.

"I was here the day it opened 25 years ago when Peter and Harry bought it, and I'll be here the day it closes,” said staff member Robery Leary.

Although Apteker has not disclosed his plans for the restaurant, he is no stranger to the food service industry. His parents were the founders of the original Veronique Restaurant in Coolidge Corner, which he took over after his graduation from the Boston University School of Hospitality Administration in 1989.

He has expressed his theory behind the event-planning industry: “Think of a little boutique that custom tailors clothes. We customtailor events.”

In 2003, Apteker purchased the former Bay Tower Room restaurant in Boston. After a multimilliondollar refurbishment of the facility, the State Room opened in the spring of 2004. It offers a panoramic view of the harbor and city and is the only independently owned special-event venue that can accommodate more than 850 guests in downtown Boston.

The entrepreneur acquired Belle Mer in 2005. Although Belle Mer is best known for glamorous oceanside weddings and galas, Apteker also uses its fairytale-like setting to help those in need.

"Jim is a good community partner," said Keith Tavares, Vice President of Child and Family Services, who served on the Boston University Alumni Association with Apteker. "I have known him for years. He's a great guy. He realizes that in order to make money from a community, you also have to give back to a community. It is an important part of his business model."

Tavares said when he hosted an event at Belle Mer for his nonprofit, Apteker was "supportive, kind and generous."

On March 6, a gala hosted by Longwood at Belle Mer will help raise funds for the University of Rhode Island Rams Fund, the Rhode Island Wounded Warrior Project and the Confetti Foundation. Apteker has also co-founded several nonprofit organizations including Food Bank and Friends of Boston Homeless.

“I’m excited to see what they do with the beach club and what the Kyriakedes plan to do with Seaview,” said Lacey, whose restaurant is located between the two sites. “This area has really grown up over the last 25 years. It’s becoming a viable alternative to downtown Newport. The development can only help the smaller businesses nearby.”

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