Business / Economy

Paine’s Restaurant & Bar changing hands

Owner John Kouretas says the last 42 years were great, and now he’s ready to retire.
Gustavo Gonzalez and Gustavo Gonzalez, Jr. will co-manage Paine's Restaurant & Bar. Photo by John Chadwell.
Gustavo Gonzalez and Gustavo Gonzalez, Jr. will co-manage Paine's Restaurant & Bar. Photo by John Chadwell.

In May 2020, John Kouretas, 63, owner of Paine’s Restaurant and Bar in Hollister for 42 years, was wondering if he could continue to stay open amid the COVID shelter-in-place order. Over two years later, the restaurant has survived, but Kouretas has had enough. He’s calling it quits.

Kouretas is in the process of selling the restaurant to Gustavo Gonzalez, owner of La Catrina Mexican Grill on San Benito Street. Gonzalez and his son, Gustavo Gonzalez Jr., will co-manage Paine’s. Both told BenitoLink that, for the time being, the menu—which Kouretas describes as a mixture of French, Italian and American dishes—and staff of 30 will remain the same.

Kouretas said the last 42 years have been a great experience, even though the last two years were challenging. He grew up on the family olive farm in Samiko, Greece, and moved to the U.S. when he was 14 in 1973. He lived in San Jose and worked at several restaurants. He was just 21 when he heard through his cousin that Paine’s, located on the corner of East Street and Briggs Alley, was on the market. He bought it from the Paine family and added his own international flair to the basic steak-and-chicken menu, he said.

“It took a while for people to get used to the sauces and other kinds of foods,” he said, describing the venture as a “crap shoot that worked out.”

“Unfortunately, it’s time to put that all to rest,” he said. “Things are changing so drastically as far as trying to run a business. The laws tie your hands. Instead of the employees working for you, you’re working for the employees.” He said he was frustrated that he couldn’t find the words to explain exactly what he meant, then added, “I did my part. It’s time for somebody else.”

He anticipated the sale would close by July 15. Gonzalez Sr. said the exchange is nearly completed and he is waiting for the state to approve the transfer of the liquor license, which could take a month or more.

“The whole family is involved,” Kouretas said of the Gonzalez family. “They’re a great family and they’re going to do well.”

Kouretas has a place in Hollister, but his home is in Chowchilla. After the sale he plans to visit his son John, daughter Elaine, and five grandchildren in Idaho and travel between there, Greece and Chowchilla. He said his children moved from Hollister to Idaho for their children’s sake because of COVID restrictions.

He said the greatest reward in running the restaurant were the customers.

“You meet some of the greatest people,” he said. “I’d like to thank the community for their support through COVID. Hopefully, they will stay supportive because these people are great.”

 

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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a BenitoLink reporter and an author. He has many years' experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]