Sports bar chain Walk-On's signs land lease on I-Drive to enter Orlando market

Baton Rouge-based sports bar chain Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar will enter the Orlando market via International Drive, signing a land lease Wednesday night with Unicorp National Developments for its last vacant pad in the I-Shops retail center.

The undeveloped site features I-Drive frontage, based just north of the Red Robin restaurant and previously marketed to accommodate a building of 6,000 square feet. 

Walk-On's is a growing sports-themed restaurant chain that serves typical American food with a Louisiana twist, and now has 15 locations in Louisiana and Texas. It was formed by two former Louisiana State University men's basketball players, and counts NFL quarterback Drew Brees among its investors. 

"When this I-Drive opportunity came up, we saw it as a high-profile tourist corridor spot that will brand Walk-On's in Orlando and Florida," president and COO Scott Taylor told GrowthSpotter on Thursday. "We're excited to see the numbers that other restaurants are doing down there, and feel we'll do very well." 

The I-Drive location will be a new, smaller prototype of Walk-On's typical building footprint, and should cover 7,200 square feet across two stories with about 240 seats, 70 or more flat-screen televisions and up to 50 beers on tap. 

Craig Colby, a veteran restaurant franchise owner with Pennsylvania-based ExecuFran, has partnered with private investors and John Delucia as main operator to form Bistreaux Bros., and been granted franchisee rights to develop four to five locations in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. 

"We're looking for 15 to 20 locations for them in Florida over the next four to five years," Taylor said. "Orlando is such a spread out market. We've looked all over, and are also working sites now in west Kissimmee near Margaritaville Resort, Altamonte Springs and different parts of Orlando." 

Walk-On's will begin designing construction plans for its smaller prototype restaurant on I-Drive in the coming weeks. The process should take three to four months, said Taylor, who estimated construction costs for the location near $2.2 million. 

"We'd love to be open by the end of 2018 or early 2019 there, but we may have another store open in (Greater) Orlando prior to that using our ready prototypes," he said. 

Heather Coons, associate with Orlando-based BluRock Commercial Real Estate, was pegged earlier this year as local brokerage contact for Walk-On's and introduced the client to Unicorp's Alexie Fonseca, director of leasing and development. 

Walk-On's first Florida location projected to open in 2018 will be in Wesley Chapel, near Tampa, likely followed by Pembrook Pines, Naples and Kissimmee, Taylor said. 

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