Newk’s eyes North Gate location

Newk’s Eatery, a Mississippi fast casual restaurant chain, is looking at opening its first Baton Rouge location at the site of the old Mr. Gatti’s by LSU’s North Gate.

Newk’s filed an application with the city-parish Planning Commission to rezone the site to allow for alcohol sales.

The matter is set to go before the commission at its June 16 meeting.

Matthew Shirley, an agent/broker with Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate, said Newk’s is negotiating with the building’s owners, but no deal is in place yet.

“They wanted to apply for rezoning so they can get moving as quickly as possible,” he said. Even if a deal can’t be reached, the restaurant rezoning will still be sought, Shirley said.

Newk’s would like to be open in time for the LSU football season, Shirley said.

Newk’s has discussed opening a Baton Rouge location for several years. Although the chain has franchisees, the Baton Rouge location would be company-owned, Shirley said.

The restaurant specializes in hand-tossed salads, oven-baked sandwiches, California-style pizzas and made-from-scratch soups.

The chain was founded in 2004 by Don Newcomb, Debra Bryson and Chris Newcomb, who founded the McAlister’s Deli chain.

Newk’s has 67 locations across the South, including restaurants in Monroe, Bossier City and Shreveport. The chain plans to open 15 restaurants in the next year.

In March, Sentinel Capital Partners, a New York private equity firm, bought an undisclosed ownership stake in Newk’s. The company said its goal is to have 200 restaurants by 2019.

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter @TCB_TheAdvocate