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Bay attorney helps put new restaurant group together

Ronnie Artigues

A Coast attorney is shuttling between Bay St. Louis, Louisiana and Philadelphia, Penn., where he is helping to restructure a restaurant group founded by celebrity chef Jose Garces.

Ronnie Artigues is one of the new owners who bought the Garces Restaurant Group out of bankruptcy in July and is serving as CEO of the new venture.

Garces, a James Beard winner and one of a few Iron Chef title holders, is a cookbook author who appears on television regularly. He is credited with amping up Philadelphia’s restaurant scene as a culinary destination.

Artigues came to his new role by way of being general counsel to Ballard Brands, a hospitality company in Louisiana that owns PJ’s Coffee, Wow Cafe, New Orleans Roast Coffee & Tea and several other restaurants with 150 locations throughout the Southeast.

Artigues and the three Ballard brothers have connections through Tulane University, mutual friends, business ventures and Republican national politics.

When the Garces group filed for bankruptcy last year, David Maser, a Philadelphia investor who knew the Ballards and Artigues, reached out to them, Artigues said. Maser, the Ballards and Artigues formed 3BM1 and paid $5.5 million in cash plus assumed liabilities of the hospitality group. They now own eight restaurants and manage and operate six others in Philadelphia, New York and Atlantic City. There’s also a large catering division in the group, which combined has a total of about 750 employees.

As CEO Artigues said, “I’m helping the new ownership group restructure and reorganize at the corporate level to make it more streamlined and efficient.” He’s piecing together the owners’ input on finances, operations and personnel as a “liaison between the operations in Louisiana and Philadelphia.”

Garces, who Artigues called a culinary genius and an artist, is the chief culinary officer of the new company, which is keeping its headquarters in Philadelphia. His restaurants feature Mexican, Spanish, Basque and American cuisine in various venues including food trucks.

Artigues spends about half of his time in Philadelphia and half in Bay St. Louis.

In the past six months, Artigues has been focused upon stabilizing and restructuring the new company, but he and the other owners also are looking at expanding. “We’re looking at bringing some of the concepts outside Philadelphia, New York and Atlantic City,” he said. New Orleans and the Coast are possible locations, given the owners’ connections. The Ballard’s company is headquartered in Covington, La.

“We’ve got a concept or two that could work on the coast but not right away,” Artigues said.

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