Restaurant expected to boost revitalization of downtown Towson

Chain scheduled to open Caribbean-theme facility in summer next to mall

April 09, 2003|By Abby Foster | Abby Foster,SUN STAFF

Efforts to revive Towson's downtown will receive a boost this summer when Bahama Breeze, a restaurant with a Caribbean theme, opens next to Towson Town Center.

The restaurant is being built atop a two-level parking garage off Joppa Road, east of the roundabout. It will feature Caribbean cuisine and live music.

Bahama Breeze is part of Darden Restaurants, an Orlando, Fla.-based company that also owns the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains and employs more than 120,000 people nationwide, according to the company's Web site.

The first Bahama Breeze opened in Orlando in 1996. Today, there are 32 locations nationwide. The Towson restaurant, which will be 8,300 square feet with seating for 270, will be the first in the mid-Atlantic region.

The planned opening comes amid renewed talk of revitalizing Towson's central business district. In recent weeks, County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina and a committee of residents, developers and representatives of county government and Towson University have refocused attention on ways to attract businesses.

There have been some positive developments. Starbucks, which operates three coffeehouses in Towson, plans to open one, maybe two more stores here. The General Assembly also has approved the transfer of three liquor licenses to Towson. Officials see the transfer as a way to lure more restaurants to the area.

Towson was chosen as a location because Darden Restaurants wants "a greater dispersion throughout the country," said Joe Chabus, a company spokesman, and because it offers easy access to Interstate 695.

The Bahama Breeze opening was originally scheduled for September 2001 but had to be delayed because of complications involved in building atop a parking garage, Chabus said.

"We're very excited about Bahama Breeze coming," said Lat Shaw of the Greater Towson Committee.

Noting that there are few large restaurants around downtown, Shaw said that if Bahama Breeze does well, it may attract smaller, boutique-type restaurants.

"The more restaurants you have in an area, the better they all do," he said.

Chabus described Caribbean cooking as " a culinary crossroads, combining flavors from French, Dutch, English, Spanish, and American dishes with a Caribbean twist."

Bahama Breeze restaurants, where chefs prepare meals in full view of patrons, feature covered dining patios and valet parking.

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