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Date of Issue: May 12, 2010

Islander disgusted by Fort DeSoto concession

A black bird was the only other guest on a recent visit by Barbara Hines and two friends to try out the Fort DeSoto State Park concession stand operated in Pinellas County by United Park Services — the selected bidder for Cafe on the Beach at the Manatee Public Beach. Islander Photos: Barbara Hines

The “snack bar” menu at Fort Desoto State Park.

A bicycle rental sign awaits customers at Fort Desoto State Park.

Holmes Beach resident Barbara Hines is concerned about the quality of food that could soon be served at Cafe on the Beach.

With a Manatee County decision pending May 11 on approval of a contract to United Parks Service of St. Petersburg, Hines and two friends decided April 26 to head to Fort DeSoto State Park in Pinellas County where UPS is the concessionaire.

The lawyer and former Indiana judge was less than impressed.

“The place looked dirty and greasy,” Hines recalled. “The food that we saw did not look appetizing. The tables were filthy. We wound up at Subway out of the park, not exactly fine dining.”

But what really bothered Hines was that when she asked several Fort DeSoto beach-goers about the quality of the food, the response was the same: “Not good.”

In particular, Hines said she ordered fish and chips, a favorite item for her at Cafe on the Beach, and, as Hines said, “it was a lot smaller that the Cafe on the Beach fish and chips and a lot cheaper.”

Hines, vice chair of ManaSota-88, a Sarasota-Manatee environmental organization, said the trio of friends purchased a hot dog, hamburger, fish and chips and iced tea. “The quality of the food, with the possible exception of the hot dog, was so far removed from that of Cafe on the Beach that it can not even be compared,” Hines said.

Hines also commented that her fish and tea cost almost $15.

Mark Enoch of UPS said he would have recommended that Hines contact a manager. He added that the concession at Fort DeSoto State Park is a snack bar, and not a restaurant.

“I think it’s very clean and impressive as far as a snack bar,” Enoch said.

He said that for restaurant items at Cafe on the Beach, UPS would hire local chefs.

Hines said she had similar experiences before April 26, but wanted to make sure nothing changed before she wrote a letter detailing her concerns to UPS and the Manatee County Board of Commissioners.

She added that she took many pictures of the food, tables, floors and rest room and a UPS worker showed her particular concern that she might have snapped a picture of the back room.

“I have no idea why she was so agitated and concerned,” Hines said.

One thing is for sure, Hines said, that food at Cafe on the Beach, one of her favorite haunts, may never be the same.