By Jane Smith
Josie’s Ristorante will have to leave its Riverwalk Plaza location by Nov. 30, 2026, when its lease ends, according to documents filed with the Palm Beach County clerk’s office.
The Boynton Beach restaurant, which opened in 1992, has a strong following on the barrier island for its traditional Italian cuisine.
Until the lease ends, Josie’s will share a valet operation with the nearby Prime Catch restaurant. That eatery owns the land and building at the southwestern base of the Woolbright Road bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway.
“We want to be good neighbors,” said Luke Therien, whose family opened Prime Catch in 2004.
Prime Catch struck a deal in March 2018 with Isram Realty, owner of the Riverwalk Plaza. In exchange for about .3 acres of waterfront land that Prime Catch owned, it will be guaranteed to exclusively keep 50 shared parking spaces after Josie’s lease ends. Isram also agreed not to rent Josie’s site to another sit-down restaurant.
Josie’s owners could not be reached for comment, and a representive at the restaurant declined to comment.
Isram recently filed plans with Boynton Beach showing how it could build a 10-story, U-shaped apartment complex.
Josie’s will become a free-standing building after demolition of the Winn-Dixie structure starts in mid-December, said Baruch Cohen, Isram’s chief operating officer.
Isram has not decided what to do with the building when Josie’s lease ends, Cohen said. He did not know whether there would be space for Josie’s at another location in Riverwalk.
On Nov. 5, the Boynton Beach City Commission approved the project’s plat.
The Hallandale-based company paid $9.5 million for the aging shopping center in March 2011. The Winn-Dixie grocery in the nearly 10-acre plaza closed in January 2015.
That closing allowed Isram to make plans to redevelop the center into a complex that includes apartments, stating the change was a better use of the waterfront land.
In January 2017, a previous City Commission approved the 326-unit project despite residents’ objections to the height and mass at the base of the bridge.
Throughout 2019, Isram has worked on erecting two buildings along Federal Highway, which will house a Chipotle’s fast-casual restaurant and another tenant.
Isram renovated another building in the plaza housing a Walgreens drugstore, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft store, Sushi Simon restaurant and Bond Street Ale and Coffee.
The two restaurants were renting space in the Winn-Dixie building.
At the same time, Isram had to update the underground utilities, fix the drainage for the complex and raise the parking lot, creating driving challenges for customers and diners.
Now, that work is moving into the area in front of Josie’s and Prime Catch.
Work will be done in two phases, Cohen said. The north part will be shut down first, then the southern part.
Therien expects that area to be ripped up for the next three months. Workers will install upgraded lines for water, sewer, storm water, electrical and natural gas.
The big thing will be the installation of an exfiltration trench that must sit above the water table. The parking lot will be raised 1.5 to 2 feet to accommodate the trench storing runoff, according to the city.
The trenches allow the runoff to ooze through a filter of rocks and enter the groundwater system. Excess water would flow out to the Intracoastal.
During the parking lot renovation, Prime Catch closed for about six weeks starting in September to remodel the interior and exterior.
“The first thing we did was to change the layout,” said Therien, whose family also owns the waterfront Banana Boat restaurant in Boynton Beach. “When you walked into the restaurant, you faced a wall. Now, you can see the waterfront.
“It’s lighter and brighter with more windows.”