TARPON SPRINGS — A local landmark that closed in 2005 is about to open its doors to the public again.
The old Pappas Riverside Restaurant is scheduled to reopen in April as Riverside Venue.
The 50,000-square-foot facility will host weddings and special events, and provide on-site catering, said events manager Cynthia M. Gamrot.
"This facility has so many water views, and people kill to have a wedding reception or event where they can have a water view," said Gamrot, owner of Onshore-Offshore Event Management.
The facility also will offer much-needed meeting space in Tarpon Springs, Gamrot said.
Michael Lowe and Victor Holcomb, principals with East Lake LLC, bought the property in May 2006 for $6.25 million. They also own Captain Jack's across the Anclote River and Catches in New Port Richey.
Lowe, 65, said the long-term plan is to expand the building to include a hotel, or to build a hotel on nearby property they own.
"The event center will fit perfectly with a hotel down the road," said Lowe. "It's very apparent this is an integral part of this town. It's important to the local economy. It's a shame for it to sit empty."
County commissioners and local merchants have long desired a hotel near the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks to increase tourism, though height restrictions and the current economic downturn have hampered plans for various developments.
The venue will provide catering services and may someday include a small "boutique restaurant," Lowe said.
Lowe said he and Holcomb want to retain the historic ambiance of the building, which still contains many of the original fixtures, pictures and artwork.
Louis Pappas founded his original restaurant in 1925, not far from the current building. That building was completed in 1975.
The Pappas restaurant, with its authentic Greek cuisine, was legendary among locals and tourists. Gamrot said people often stop by, asking if they can take a look at the restaurant they used to frequent with loved ones.
"Generations of families spent countless evenings at the restaurant celebrating weddings, anniversaries, birthdays," Gamrot said. "Memories of the location are endless and too precious to let the facility be forgotten."
Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow @sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.