For the past decade, Paul Mattison, 52, vowed he would not open another restaurant. Now he’s locked into a downtown Bradenton restaurant for 20 years.
Mattison’s promise to himself ended earlier this year when he was approached by YachtSea Grille owner Steve Petty, 73.
“The stars all aligned and everything made sense,” Mattison said. “And I couldn’t come up with more excuses not to do it.”
YachtSea Grille will close for the last time on Dec. 3 and reopen as Mattison’s City Grille at Bradenton Riverwalk on Dec. 12.
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The two restaurateurs discussed the plan for the past few months. They wanted to make sure the transition was smooth and the down time was minimal for the restaurant’s 38 employees.
The transition can happen over nine days because of the work done by Petty while he owned the restaurant during the past four-and-a-half years. Structurally, Mattison won’t change much, but he will change the decor and menu slightly.
17 of 38 number of employees who are original YachtSea Grille crew
“There’s a nice pace of regulars who enjoy YachtSea Grille and I have had requests from a few not to take the clam chowder,” Mattison said.
Other YachtSea favorites will remain on the menu and Mattison will populate the rest of it with cuisine similar to what is served at Mattison’s City Grille in downtown Sarasota.
While Petty designed the restaurant to look and feel like a cruise ship, Mattison said it will reopen Dec. 12 with a more Mediterranean-Tuscan warmth feel. The building has the restaurant property on the ground floor with offices on the upper floors. It was built in 1986 and is now owned by the City of Bradenton, according to the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s office. The city leases it to another company, Plaza Del Rio Associates LLC, who then leases it out to tenants.
“There were 475 people in the building when we opened,” Petty said. “There’s a lot vacancy right now and they’re in the process of re-leasing it.”
Petty designed and launched the YachtSea Grille concept with his son, who brought nine years of restaurant experience from Applebee’s. His son decided to take his career in a different direction and Petty, who’s originally from Texas, wanted to re-enter retirement. He retired at 55 but business opportunities kept popping up. He’s now looking forward to enjoying retirement with his wife, Rosie.
When Petty began to think about moving on from the restaurant business, he sought a local aficionado to build on the reputation he created at YachtSea.
YachtSea was consistently in TripAdvisor’s top 30 Bradenton restaurants since it opened, he said.
“Of all the people I could get advice from, I trusted Paul’s judgment,” Petty said.
Mattison has years in the restaurant business, both opening his own establishments and consulting for others to do the same. Self-described as “somewhere between a frustrated architect-builder and a chef,” Mattison gets a thrill out of designing, building and executing new restaurant concepts. He started washing dishes and busing tables at a restaurant near his childhood home in Utica, New York.
“The guy who ran it was a real mentor to me in the restaurant business and I worked for him for six to eight months,” Mattison said. “He bought a restaurant property in the next town over and so we all went in and helped with the demolition and moving wares and equipment in and opening new restaurant. I think I got the buzz of doing that from day one.”
Since then, he’s designed and opened about a half-dozen of his own restaurants between St. Petersburg, Longboat Key and Sarasota. After creating his own successful reputation as a chef and restaurant owner, the Twin Dolphin Marina Grill, now operating under the Pier 22 name and Chef Greg Campbell’s tenure, hired Mattison to run the place.
“After five years it wasn’t mine, it was theirs, and I wanted to let them carry on and do what they were doing,” Mattison said of his reason for leaving.
Pier 22 general manager and executive chef Greg Campbell said he isn’t worried about the competition and wishes Mattison all the best in the new venture.