Little Rock restaurateur Jim Keet, owner with his family of several Taziki's Mediterranean Cafes in Arkansas, is joining forces with restaurant industry veteran Louis Petit to open Petit & Keet Bar & Grill in the former 1620 Savoy at 1620 Market St. in west Little Rock.
Keet stepped down as president and CEO of Taziki's, based in Birmingham, Alabama, several months ago, he said, and is now focusing his attention on his family's restaurant enterprise, JTJ Restaurants, which also owns the I Love Juice Bar in Little Rock's Midtown Shopping Center.
Petit founded Café Prego in the Heights with his wife, Jacqueline, but now works with his sons on the Florida Gulf Coast in the restaurants Louis Louis in Santa Rosa Beach and The Red Bar in Grayton Beach. Petit has a lengthy history on the Little Rock restaurant scene, going back to the days of Jacques & Suzanne, a legendary restaurant that, though it closed in 1986, introduced a number of restaurateurs and chefs who went on to open other famed establishments in the Little Rock area.
Keet said he hoped to close Thursday on the purchase of the 1620 building from RH Cuisine, headed by Rush Harding, CEO of Little Rock investment firm Crews & Associates. The restaurant 1620 Savoy closed in January.
"Louis and I have been friends going all the way back to my Wendy's days," Keet said. "About three and half years ago we started talking about wouldn't it be fun for us to do a restaurant together?"
"We started looking for the opportunity to buy the perfect restaurant for what we wanted to do," he said.
Keet expects renovations to take a couple of months and hopes to be open for business by mid-November.
He sees the restaurant as "polished casual" — not quite as fine dining and "white tablecloth" as 1620 Savoy — and is devoting a lot of energy on remaking the bar, to be known either as Keet's Corner or Keet's Corner Bar, which will have a separate menu, though entrees from the main restaurant will be available. He and Petit are planning to knock down the wall separating the patio from the bar to make space for the bigger Keet's Corner, and they've budgeted a couple of hundred thousand dollars for renovations.
"I've been doing this for a long time, but I can assure you that we're not going to open it till we're ready to open it," Keet said.
Petit is a partner in the business but will continue to be involved in his enterprises in Florida as well, Keet said.
"The one thing that we are absolutely going to focus on is having the same kind of customer-oriented experience that Louis has been famous for in the past and that hopefully we are at Taziki's: the friendliest restaurants in town that care about our customers."
Hours will be 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.