Former Partner Working To Revive Kapnos Kouzina Bethesda Restaurant

Menu and concepts would remain, name would change

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George Pagonis

Via Kapnos

George Pagonis, executive chef and partner at Kapnos Kouzina, said Thursday he is starting his own company and working with Federal Realty Investment Trust to reopen the Bethesda restaurant.

The Greek-themed restaurant was one of 12 which shut down after parent company Mike Isabella Concepts filed for liquidation in federal bankruptcy court.

Kapnos Kouzina initially survived after the restaurant group filed for Chapter 7 liquidation in mid-December, only to close two weeks later.

The restaurant announced its closure in a Dec. 22 Instagram post, but pointed toward a possible return, signing off by saying, “We hope to serve you again soon.”

Pagonis said he is in negotiations with FRIT, the landlord, to restore Kapnos Kouzina, Kapnos in the District and Kapnos Taverna in Arlington, Virginia.

The chef was unable to release the details of his new company just yet, but said Kapnos Kouzina would be renamed because he doesn’t own the rights to the name. As for his relationship with Isabella, Pagonis said he and his brother Nick have severed business ties with the restaurateur.

“It’s all over,” Pagonis said. “The only reason why it stayed as long as it has is because we had financial interests in some of the operation, so we couldn’t just walk away that easily.”

Isabella spokesman Edward Segal declined to comment on the relationship between Isabella and Pagonis.

The new restaurant would have a similar menu and concept as the original Kapnos Kouzina, with a bit of sprucing up for a reopening, Pagonis said.

“Most of the whole concept and the food is my brother and I, we’re the only two Greeks in the entire company,” Pagonis said. “We’re the ones that came up with the menu, I’m the one that came up with the food. … I feel like the entire operation was 100 percent mine, as far as the food goes.”

A representative from FRIT did not respond to requests for comment about Pagonis’ efforts to reopen the restaurant and has previously said retail real estate group cannot comment on lease-related matters.

Negotiations are in the preliminary stages and have since picked up since a lull over the holidays, Pagonis said. There is no time frame for a possible reopening.

“It broke all our hearts to see them all go after all that hard work,” Pagonis said. “Now it’s just another challenge ahead of us to do our best to get them open again.”

Washington City Paper first reported Pagonis’ attempts to reopen the restaurant.

Charlie Wright can be reached at charlie.wright@bethesdamagazine.com

This story has been updated to reflect Pagonis plans to restore Kapnos Taverna in Arlington, Virginia.

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