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By Anna Lothson
Papaspiros in downtown Oak Park is closing shop after 15 years at 733 Lake St. and moving across the street.
Owner Spiro Papageorge confirmed last week that his Greek restaurant will close, but said a new, similar restaurant will move into 728 Lake St., formerly Velvet Rope, a gay night club that closed last summer, following a fire.
Arson was ruled the cause but no arrests have been made and the police are still investigating the incident. The building was listed for lease after repairs were made inside. Papageorge is among three investors who entered into a lease with the building's owner.
Moving the restaurant to Evanston was considered since one of the investors lives there, but Papageorge convinced his partners to remain in Oak Park. In return, Papageorge agreed to give up the Papaspiros name.
"I'm so happy that with my new partners we decided to stay in Oak Park," he said. "I'm looking forward to opening up soon."
The Oak Park restaurateur said that while the original larger space was nice, economic realities make the smaller spot desirable. Because of the limited space, he said their catering and carryout business will expand. He also hopes the smaller space will create a cozier atmosphere.
The new restaurant doesn't have an official opening date yet, but Papageorge said it will be soon. The name will be revealed at its grand opening.
Papageorge is thankful for his 15 years as the owner of Papaspiros, which opened in May 1997. He said he's thankful for the support of Oak Park and River Forest residents and the opportunity to operate in the building owned by landlord James Bushhouse and his wife Noreen. Now he's looking forward to working with Mike Fox, who owns the 728 Lake St. property.
"I'm proud to have lasted 15 years," Papageorge said. In that time, Papaspiros has seen its share of celebrities and television network appearances. It's most notable customer, however, has been Gov. Pat Quinn, who visits once a month.
"We're very proud of that," said Papageorge, who added that the new restaurant will feature more delivery options and be focused on specialty Greek and Mediterranean dishes. A new chef with "new and old ideas" will be coming from Athens, Greece to the new establishment. The new menu will mesh Greek, Mediterranean and European flavors and tapas (small plates). But traditional Greek dishes will still be available, Papageorge said.