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Russell takes on new restaurant venture

Published:Friday | August 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Robin Russell, whose family owns the popular Pier One Restaurant and Bar, is deepening his own involvement in the food business, with a new venture on Gloucester Avenue in Montego Bay.

He will be running the restaurant at Altamont West, a hotel property owned by the Jarretts.

Christopher Jarrett, Altamont's operations manager based in Kingston, told the Financial Gleaner that Russell showed interest in the space after Norma Shirley backed out of a deal to operate a restaurant there.

"He made a proposal to us and we decided to bring him on board," said Jarrett.

He said Shirley, who operates the Norma's restaurants, expressed concerns about expansion into Montego Bay at this time, citing the country's crime situation, the state of emergency, which has since been lifted, and the slump in the industry as reasons for her change of mind.

Russell told the Financial Gleaner that he would be investing J$3 million in the new venture, which he said is his second solo project. The first was Janga's.

September opening

He will name the new restaurant, Ribeye Stakehouse - his spelling is not to be confused with Ribeyes Steakhouse in the United States. Russell said there is no connection.

He is currently refurbishing the Altamont restaurant and plans to open for business by the first week in September.

"Having a restaurant there is like having a captive audience," he said. "It will be a symbiotic arrangement."

Russell said he was lured into the restaurant business by his parents Beverley and Robert Russell - of Sumfest fame - who opened their first restaurant in 1972 in Mandeville. Pier One, which is one of Montego Bay's most popular entertainment spots, was started in 1996.

"Montego Bay needs variety and we are on the Hip Strip. We will enhance the Hip Strip," he said. "With tourism not losing numbers, we believe we can get a piece of the pie."

Hip Strip is the promotional name for Gloucester Avenue, which is populated by restaurants, gaming facilities and hotels.

Russell said that the restaurant will seat40-50 people. It is expected to create 15 new jobs.