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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Bradenton Beach pier concession needs concessions

Bradenton Beach city commissioners met in special session Jan. 11 to hear a report from Commissioner Bill Shearon on why so few restaurant operations decided to bid on the concession for the city pier, although a number of bid packets were taken. Only one bid was submitted and that was rejected by the commission.

Shearon had undertaken to contact everyone who picked up a packet but then failed or declined to bid on the concession. The answers, according to those he spoke with, is that the city needs to make some concessions before they are interested in the concession.

"The biggest concern was that the numbers do not match" what the city wants for a lease, said Shearon.

The city's demand for 12 percent of the monthly gross or a minimum of $5,000 per month was too much to make the restaurant work, according to Shearon's findings.

He said he spoke with some other Bradenton Beach restaurant operators who confirmed that making any restaurant operate profitably at those prices would be difficult.

In addition, Shearon reported other complaints were the demand for a 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily operation, competition from nine other restaurants and two ice cream parlors within walking distance of the pier, negotiating a new lease every year with five city commissioners, too many requirements for personal information in the bid package, the need to upgrade the facility, no lease agreement in the bid package, and an unclear date when the pier would be ready for occupancy. Shearon turned up 11 major objections to the bid package.

Most of those who picked up a bid package assumed the lease would be subject to negotiations, he added.

Commissioner John Shaughnessy agreed. He talked to the lone bidder, Michael Glazier, who said he had thought there would be negotiations to complete a deal to lease the facility, not an outright rejection by the commission.

Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips, who has previously been in the restaurant business on the Island, agreed that the commission could consider a lower base rate for the lease, but objected to complaints about competition.

"Whatever goes in there must be competitive," she observed.

Shearon suggested the commission look for a consultant to draw up a lease and establish a number of other criteria for the concession, but Phillips said she "wasn't fond" of consultants.

She said the concession doesn't even have to be a restaurant, and believed the city could even consider running its own operation from the pier. Whatever goes on the pier will "soar" when the waterborne taxi starts dropping off mainland visitors at the pier, she said.

No "fancy agreements" are needed, Phillips claimed. "Let's just offer space at our price" and see who makes an offer.

But Shaughnessy noted that other businesses in the area are suffering because of a lack of pier traffic.

Commissioners eventually agreed to have Shearon find out how much a consultant would charge to draw up a lease agreement that would include exactly who pays for what and who is responsible for what. Terms of the lease will be discussed when and if a consultant is found.

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