Hospitality spot to replace Rustic Inn

Company moving in caters about 1,000 weddings annually.

By Bill DiPaolo Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

JUPITER — Now that the Rustic Inn Seafood Crabhouse is closed, what’s going to happen to that building on some of the most coveted waterfront property in north county?

The answer is a unique venue — an upscale hospitality destination for weddings, distinctive catering, and skillfully executed food service management, says the chief executive officer of Lessing’s Hospitality Group, which plans to lease the property.

“The location, you can’t beat it. It’s on the Jupiter Inlet. There’s the Loxahatchee River. There’s the view of the Jupiter Lighthouse. It’s a phenomenal opportunity,” said Michael Lessing, CEO of the company, which is based in Great River, New York.

Jim Taube, who owns u-Tiki and Jetty’s restaurant next door, said Lessing’s has the right idea.

“We get lots of calls asking to rent space for weddings and other big events. The demand is there. They have a big restaurant. They have lots of parking. A place like that is needed in north county,” Taube said.

The company, established in 1890, operates 14 wedding and catering venues, nine full-service restaurants and a historic hotel in the Northeastern United States built in 1751. The company caters about 1,000 weddings a year, said Lessing.

Lessing’s signed a lease for the former Rustic Inn with Charles Modica, who owns the four-acre Jupiter Inlet parcel. Modica bought the property for $8.3 million last year.

The property is just west of Modica’s 4-acre parcel on Love Street. There Modica wants to build a $30 million outdoor marketplace featuring restaurants, offices and shops.

Major changes are planned for the inside of the Rustic Inn building, but the outside will remain pretty much the same, Modica said.

Catering weddings and other events at country clubs, mansions

and other upscale venues in the northeast is the major portion of the company’s business, said Lessing.

The company expects to employ about 100 when it opens in the coming months, said Lessing.

“We’ll reorganize the interior. We want to improve the view. We’ll create more natural light. It’s going to be a first-class facility,” Lessing said.

Customers will be able to rent out portions of the building for weddings and other events. There will not be a restaurant, Lessing said.

Company research showed there is a lack of rental space in the north Palm Beach County area for weddings and other events, Lessing said.

“There’s lots of private clubs and hotels available. But we plan to create a destination that will be unique for the area,” Lessing said.

Modica also owns the nearby 10-acre Suni Sands property. Combining Suni Sands, Love Street and the Rustic Inn properties to form an ecotourism destination on the Jupiter Inlet is the goal, according to Modica.

“Once all these places are tied together, people will be able to come for a week’s vacation and never have to use their car,” Lessing said. bdipaolo@pbpost.com

Twitter: @Billdipaolo