published Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Chattanooga restaurant Niko's Southside Grill to close Dec. 22

Niko's Southside Grill, which helped spur Chattanooga's Southside revitalization, will permanently close its doors on Dec. 22.

Niko's chef and co-owner Nick Kyriakidis sold the building in October, and will shut down the restaurant before the New Year, the family told employees last week.

Nick Kyriakidis, who suffered a spinal injury in 2011 and has been unable to cook at his award-winning Southside restaurant, will now shift to a full-time regime of rehab and recovery, said wife and co-owner, Amy Kyriakidas.

"It was a lot to take care of," she said. "He was in a place where he wanted to spend more time doing physical rehabilitation."

The family preferred to sell the business rather than hire a general manager and sacrifice Niko's family atmosphere, she said.

"Being able to give the absolutely best quality of service means the owner has to be able to come in," she said. "I think big chains definitely have the money to make it work, but we're not that kind of location."

The Kyriakidis family will continue to operate The Acropolis Grill near Hamilton Place mall, and the Niko's brand itself was not sold as part of the transaction. Some of the employees will continue to work at the family's remaining restaurant, while others will pursue new jobs in the new year, Amy Kyriakidas said. If her husband's rehab goes well, he may relaunch Niko's down the road or create a completely new restaurant, she said. However, such talk is premature.

"There are no current plans to do anything else," she said.

The Kyriakidis family in 2007 purchased what was then the Southside Grill for $1.5 million, according to the Hamilton County Assessor of Property. But the property has decreased in value by one-third since then, and Kyriakidis was only able to get $1 million for the structure in a sale to a real estate investment group led by fellow restaurateur Mike Monen.

Mike Monen's wife and partner, Taylor Monen, said the group will convert the top floor to office space and will lease the bottom floor to another restaurant. The Monen family has no plans to launch a restaurant in the space since the Chattanooga duo are deep in the process of opening two new downtown locations in the early spring, she said.

The Monens owns Urban Stack and Taco Mamacita and will open a new pizza parlor and gelato restaurant in January and March, respectively.

"We have no intentions of putting a restaurant there that's owned by us," she said. "We will be looking for a tenant, but we haven't even started that process."

The Monens traditionally work in spaces smaller than 4,000 square feet, while Niko's is 20,000 square feet.

"We may split that up somehow, but we have no exact plans," she said. "The building is old, and to do anything substantial you'd have to bring it up to code."

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6315.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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