Brazilian steakhouse to fill long-empty Providence Place storefront on Francis St.

PLANS SUBMITTED to the Capital Center Commission by Fogo de Chão show the restaurant plans to provide about 50 outdoor seats along Francis Street at Providence Place mall. / FOGO DE CHAO RENDERING
PLANS SUBMITTED to the Capital Center Commission by Fogo de Chão show the restaurant plans to provide about 50 outdoor seats along Francis Street at Providence Place mall. / FOGO DE CHAO RENDERING

PROVIDENCE – A Texas-based Brazilian steakhouse chain is preparing to open its first Rhode Island location in a prominent street-level space at Providence Place mall that’s been empty since Joe’s American Bar & Grill closed seven years ago.

Representatives for Fogo de Chão, which has about 70 locations internationally, have submitted plans for two outdoor dining areas – one along Francis Street and the other an expansion of an existing patio along the “promenade” that leads to a side mall entrance – to the Capital Center Commission, which oversees design and development standards in a district between downtown Providence and the Statehouse.

While confirming that the steakhouse is preparing to move into Providence Place, Fogo de Chão declined to be specific about when it would open.

“We’re proud to confirm that we’re bringing the culinary art of churrasco to Providence later this year,” Ronaldo Chiesa, the restaurant’s area director, said in a statement. “We believe our discovery dining experience and elevated design elements make Fogo a great fit for the area and are excited to expand into this new market. We look forward to opening our doors soon and welcoming the Providence community into our restaurant.”

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Fogo’s location will be a 7,000-square-foot, street-level corner storefront that faces the intersection of Francis Street and Finance Way just outside the Waterplace Park basin. It had been occupied by Joe’s American Bar & Grill from 2000 – less than a year after the mall opened – to 2016, when it closed without a public explanation.

Lindsay Kahn, a spokesperson for Brookfield Property Partners, the parent company of Providence Place LLC, confirmed that Fogo de Chão had signed a lease but referred other questions to the restaurant.

Fogo de Chão, founded in 1979 by brothers Arri and Jair Coser in southern Brazil, is now owned by global private equity firm Rhône Group. It opened its first U.S. restaurant in Texas in 1997. Fogo has two Massachusetts locations, one in Boston and another in Burlington, and five locations in New York.

The restaurant specializes in the Brazilian cooking technique of churrasco.

Fogo’s impending arrival is a bit of good news for Providence Place, an urban shopping center that had been hobbled in recent years by the rise of e-commerce and the crippling effects of the COVID-19 shutdown. Mall management has been working to reverse the perception among some in the public that the mall is unsafe and parking is difficult.

Last fall, Brookfield Property Partners also requested that the city extend its tax treaty with the mall for another 20 years.

The city already gives Providence Place a discount on taxes as part of a series of state and local incentives offered when the mall opened in 1999. Under the 30-year tax agreement, which runs through 2028, the company pays about $500,000 a year through a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement.

The mall owner sought a new tax treaty that follows a similar structure but increases the annual payments to $4.5 million in taxes a year through 2048. This represents savings of more than 80% compared with the $25 million annual tax bill the company would pay based on the $708.7 million property value as of 2022.

The Providence City Council introduced an ordinance calling for a new tax treaty, but it was not immediately clear where the matter stands now.

The mall wanted a new agreement that would also expand how the property can be used, allowing the owners to redevelop the shopping center with office, education, residential and medical uses, among others.

Chief among them: revitalizing the Francis Street ground floor with innovative restaurants, entertainment venues, spas, exercise facilities and even financial services firms. The company also said it wanted to add a coworking office on an upper floor and turn the empty, third-floor storefront previously occupied by J.C. Penney into an indoor miniature golf course or “American Ninja Warrior” style challenge.

As far as Fogo’s plans to change the facade of the mall and add outdoor dining, the Capital Center Commission approved its proposal in February in a 5-2 vote, on the condition that it be reviewed to ensure compliance with fire codes. A commission member expressed concern that one of the outdoor dining areas could cause a “pileup” of people leaving the mall through a nearby exit.

A city Planning Department spokesman said that after that review, the restaurant would still need to seek building permits from the city and the state.

William Hamilton is PBN managing editor. You may contact him at 

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