By John Schaffner

It is official! Pano Karatassos has signed a deal to move the flagship restaurant of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group into the St. Regis Atlanta Hotel next year and become the signature restaurant for the new posh hotel and condo building on West Paces Ferry Road.

Karatassos, the co-founder of Pano’s & Paul’s restaurant and CEO of Buckhead Life, has reportedly signed a 30-year lease for an 8,000-square-foot space connected to the 151-room hotel and 51 residences of the St. Regis at 88 W. Paces Ferry Road.

The restaurant was founded in 1979 by Karatassos and then-partner Paul Albrecht, who left Buckhead Life in 1998 to pursue his own restaurants. Karatassos has said “Paul’s” likely will be dropped from the restaurant’s name when it moves from its present location in the strip shopping center at 1232 W. Paces Ferry Road.

The approximately 180-seat restaurant will have a front along West Paces Ferry Road with a separate exterior entrance and its own valet parking. The menu at the new restaurant will remain essentially the same, but the restaurant also will be open for lunch.

The lease at the restaurant’s present location is up in April, a month after the planned opening of the St. Regis in March. Pano’s & Paul’s will remain open at the present location until the lease ends.

Karatassos has said the restaurant will receive a complete makeover when it moves to the St. Regis, and he hopes construction will be completed in time for a smooth transition between the locations.

Apparently negotiations began about a year ago between Karatassos and Paul Freeman, the lead development partner of SR Hotel Development Co. LLP, the developer of the St. Regis.

The new restaurant location is just a long walk from The Streets of Buckhead development and in close proximity to several of the Buckhead Life Group’s 12 Atlanta properties. The group’s 103 West private banquet hall is directly across West Paces Ferry Road. The Chops/Lobster Bar steak and seafood house is next door to the hotel, and Nava, the company’s Southwest concept, is on the same block. The Fish Market is a short walk away.

Pano’s Grand Café, a new French concept, also is set to open in the spring in the Sovereign building at 3344 Peachtree Road in Buckhead.