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LAS COLINAS, TX-The sights and sounds of the Caribbean Islands are coming to Las Colinas, an upscale Dallas suburb that has an abundance of high-end retail and unique restaurant concepts. Orlando-based Darden Restaurants has grabbed title to two acres and jumpstarted construction on a Bahama Breeze.

It’s the third in Texas and second in the northern part of the state. Frisco opened about two months ago and Austin, 1 1/2 years ago. Scouts are out for a third location in the Dallas-Ft. Worth region, Randy Guse, Bahama Breeze’s vice president of development, tells GlobeSt.com.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, it’s a Caribbean-style Sugar Plantation design with menu and music befitting its theme. The Bahama Breeze in Oklahoma City and Tampa are situated on lake fronts. The 11,400-sf Las Colinas eatery also will boast water features, but they will be limited to interior and exterior waterfalls.

The DFW region, says Guse, is particularly appealing because “it’s a diverse economy, a rapidly growing population and strong demographics.” But, the world’s largest casual dining network isn’t turning its back on the rest of the state. “Our strategy is we are looking for good sites in good markets,” says Guse. It’s a high-end concept that drives a site search in upper-income areas of major markets and all Texas metropolises are under the magnifying glass for possible locations.

The Las Colinas land is located in Las Colinas Village, situated at the intersection of Texas 114 and MacArthur Boulevard. Wilson Barnes of Dallas is the general contractor for the restaurant, which is scheduled to open in May 2002.

GMRI Texas Inc. is the buyer of record for the Las Colinas site. Darrell Hernandez and Maury Levy, both of United Commercial Realty/ChainLinks in Dallas, represented the seller, Dallas-based Trademark Cos. Ken Black of Ken Black & Associates of Dallas handled acquisition talks for Darden.

Darden’s other venues are Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Smokey Bones. All told, Darden has more than 1,100 of the quartet of concepts up and running in North America. And, all are company owned. The first Bahama Breeze opened Feb. 19. 1996 in Orlando and Darden has since launched 24 in 13 states. In the first week of September, Darden cut the ribbon on its Broomfield, CO Bahama Breeze, an opening that came roughly four months after doors were unlocked in Las Vegas. Also new this year was a Bahama Breeze in Henrietta, NY near Rochester. Still to come will be one in Schaumburg, IL. Guse says Darden has plotted for eight to 10 Bahama Breezes to be operational before the fiscal year closes in May 2002.

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