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Date of Issue: April 14, 2010

United Parks Service given first nod for beaches

The Manatee Public and Coquina beaches are a step closer to a remodel that would include a Key West look, as well as additional rentals and youth education programs.

A Manatee County committee April 7 recommended that United Parks Services Inc. operate the concessions at both Manatee Public Beach and Coquina Beach.

Manatee Public Beach is in Holmes Beach and Coquina Beach is in Bradenton Beach, but both parks are managed and maintained by the county.

For about two months, the committee of Melissa Assha of the county purchasing department, Elliott Falcione, executive manager of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Cindy Turner of the county parks and recreation department, reviewed four companies’ proposals and presentations.

The committee’s overall ranking for Manatee was, in order, UPS, P.S. Beach Associates, Loggerhead’s Beach Cafe and Blue Wave.

For Coquina, the committee’s ranking was UPS, Loggerhead’s and Blue Wave.

P.S. Beach Associates has operated both concessions for 18 years. Its contract expires this year and the longtime restaurant-concession stand operator  did not submit a proposal for Coquina.

If the Manatee County Board of Commissioners approves the committee’s recommendation, UPS will have a five-year contract to operate both beaches.

UPS president Alan Kahana said in his proposal that he established his company as a Florida corporation in 2006 to provide food and beverage sales and rental services at Fort DeSoto Park in St. Petersburg and other venues. Kahana owns the Boneyard Restaurant, Czar, The Castle, Fuma Bella and Dirty Shame Pub in Tampa. He also operates four parking lots in Tampa.

At Manatee, Kahana said he plans on keeping the all-you-can-eat pancakes tradition. He also proposed an ice cream and coffee shop.

“I also thought they shared the same vision as us on where they looked at the building and where they would make capital improvements to make the building more aesthetically pleasing, but at the same time keep that Island feel,” Turner said.

 Assha said of UPS, “Their marketing plan was the strongest of the proposals because they branched out and took on mediums that were pleasing to me. They’re a solid company.”

At Manatee, UPS would offer fresh lemonade and shaved ice. Also, UPS told the committee that it wants to add a tiki bar outside the restaurant so that those wanting a beverage won’t have to wait in line.

For Coquina Beach, UPS emphasized kayak and bicycle rentals. The committee liked UPS’s ideas, saying the bay side of the beaches is ideal for kayaks, and the new trail system is fitting for bikes. UPS also proposed a dinner buffet and various special events.

“I think they covered all corners,” Falcione said. “It goes back to my mindset as a tourism person is, ‘How we can be different from other destinations?’ Amenities play a part in that. I think their unique style they bring to the table makes our destination different. There’s so much competition worldwide for tourism business that we have to think that way.”

After the committee first reviewed the proposals, it felt the proposals were neglecting Coquina.

“I really believe Coquina lends itself for becoming a true destination,” Turner said at the time.

But by the April 7 meeting, UPS had come up with better ideas for Coquina. Added Falcione at the county administration center in Bradenton, “I don’t think (UPS) let off the gas pedal for the second (Coquina) presentation. They were right up there with how they presented themselves at Manatee Beach. The vision was there and obviously the uniqueness and creativity.”

The committee predicted UPS would attract more tourists than the others, something they said the state sorely needs. Falcione reminded the committee that tourism generates sales tax needed by the state to buffer a $3 billion deficit.

Although P.S. Beach Associates was ranked second of the four Manatee Beach proposers, the committee was disappointed with its proposals and cited a lack of creative ideas. On the other hand, the committee commended P.S. Beach Associates’ quality of food and experience.

Loggerhead’s Beach Cafe impressed the committee with its enthusiasm and plan. It proposed a Loggerhead turtle theme at both beaches, including Loggerhead T-shirts and hats.

“Of all the presentations, in my opinion, Loggerhead’s had the best business model and presentation,” Turner said.

But the committee cited a lack of experience in the company led by Robert Kline, president of Dogology Inc. in Bradenton, a food-concession company operating from Tampa to Key West since 1999.

“I saw four young people with a lot of creative ideas and entrepreneurship,” Turner said.

Blue Wave, a division of Sunrise Sunset Concessions in Nokomis, with president Peder Jansson, made proposals for both beach operations. The business has contracts providing concession food services at Siesta Key Beach, Snook Haven Restaurant, Manatee Golf Course and Buffalo Creek Golf Course.

The committee acknowledged Blue Wave’s experience and proposal for cheap prices. But the committee didn’t think Blue Wave’s compensation package to the county was the best, nor did it think the proposals showed creativity.

“(Jansson) had ideas and threw them out there, and they just weren’t well thought out,” Assha said.

If selected by the county, UPS would begin operations at both beaches July 21.

The issue is not on this week’s county commission agenda.

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who chairs the county tourist development council, said she is not happy with the recommendation, but she will have to examine the details.

“I’ve never heard one complaint about the current vendor (P.S. Beach) since they had it,” Whitmore said. “I haven’t looked at what was offered because I personally tried to stay out of it as not to be swayed in anyway.”

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