Bradenton Beach commissioners heard a proposal to open a restaurant on the Historic Bridge Street Pier at a June 6 city commission meeting.
Chef Christopher Ulmer and potential concessionaire Roland Pena, co-owner of the Starfish Cafe at the Vitamin Sea store in Holmes Beach, offered their plan, although the city had not yet discussed its request for proposal to consider a new tenant.
Ulmer said his group wants to lease the restaurant, bait stand and for the restaurant to be a center of activities, such as fishing tournaments and other events.
“Our priority would be not be to market us as Anna Maria Island, but as Bradenton Beach and Bridge Street,” he said. “That is where we are.”
Commissioners also heard from Tami Murphy, owner of Gulf Boat Fun Tours. Murphy recently began offering boat tours at the pier.
She expressed interest in leasing the bait kiosk for her own purposes, but commissioners told her and the Star Fish team that any interest in the restaurant or kiosk is premature.
City attorney Ricinda Perry said she expected to present an RFP to commissioners at the meeting, but wasn’t sure what direction the commissioners want to take.
“Piecing out the pier may not be in the best interest of the city and I don’t want to move forward tonight with any use of the pier,” she said. “I really don’t know what the city wants to do, whether to piecemeal it out or keep it all together.”
Perry suggested scheduling a workshop or special meeting with a single focus on discussing the restaurant and bait kiosk.
Commissioner Ric Gatehouse said he didn’t agree that separating the restaurant and kiosk with two tenants would be a bad idea.
“We don’t know that for sure until we get some offers on the table,” he said. “But I don’t want to close any doors at this point and I think this needs more discussion.”
Mayor John Shaughnessy said an RFP is city policy and the fairest way to find a new tenant or tenants, noting that discussing potential new tenants before the RFP would not be prudent.
“There has been some discussion about going separate, but I’m in agreement to do a workshop to see what the best solution is for everyone and to be fair to everybody,” he said.
Commissioners gave a consensus to schedule a workshop. Perry said one would be scheduled within 7-10 days in order to bring an RFP to the next commission meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday, June 20, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.
In other matters, commissioners voted 3-1 to have an Australian pine tree removed from Lou Barola Park. Public works director Tom Woodard said a home is being built on the adjacent property and that the tree extends over onto private property.
“The new homeowners would like permission to remove the Australian pine tree and replace with it a native gumbo-limbo tree in the same location,” said Woodard.
Woodard said the property owners are willing to pay for the project and agreed and public works would stipulate the owner to initially maintain the new tree, watering to get it established.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Commissioner Jan Vosburgh. “It’s getting rid of a problem tree, getting a native tree and he’s picking up the cost.”
Gatehouse moved to approve authorizing the property owner to remove and replace the tree. Vosburgh seconded the motion and Shaughnessy joined in voting for approval.
Vice Mayor Ed Straight was absent and Commissioner Gay Breuler voted “nay.”
Commissioners also voted 4-0 to deny a request from BeachHouse Restaurant general manager Rebecca Shannon for a donation toward the Independence Day fireworks July 3 at the restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N.
Shannon said the event has grown into a community event, which in turn benefits the community and its businesses.
“We are looking for help to offset the cost for this event,” said Shannon. “I’m not going to get into the details of the costs, but it’s in the thousands and thousands of dollars and expenses are going up.”
Shannon said restaurant owner Ed Chiles has been honored to hold the event and would like to continue to do so.
Shaughnessy said it was only a few short years ago that the city donated up to $10,000 to various causes, but that the city doesn’t have the money to spend outside of its own needs.
Breuler said budget talks are just about to begin for 2014 and is too late to ask for money this year.
Shannon said her intent was to put the subject out for discussion and wanted to pursue a more official request for next year’s celebration.
She said Bridge Street Merchants has claimed the event to be one of its biggest sales day and recently pledged to help with the cost.
Commissioners voted no for this year, “but at least we get this on the table so people are thinking about it,” said Shannon.
The city commission schedule calls for a city meeting July 4. Commissioners voted 4-0 to cancel the that meeting and rescheduled it for July 11. The July 18 commission meeting also was canceled.