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Bradenton Beach officials finalize new lease for city pier

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

A sign on the Historic Bridge Street Pier still promotes “Rotten Ralph’s Restaurant.” State regulations prohibit rooftop signs on piers, but a new tenant will be able to change the message and retain the sign. Islander Photo: Mark Young

Bradenton Beach officials put the finishing touches on modifications to the new lease for a potential new restaurant tenant on the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

At an Aug. 22 pier team meeting, commissioners and city staff hammered out the final details of the 30-page lease, which was drafted by city attorney Ricinda Perry after the former tenant’s lease was voided.

That lease led to a variety of issues for former concessionaire Dave Russell and city staff when Russell fell behind on rent following Tropical Storm Debby in June 2012.

Provisions in the old lease did not allow Russell to make partial payments to the city and accountability issues in ensuring timely payments left the city without knowledge of the escalating debt for several months.

The exact amount owed became an issue as city staff attempted to decipher the lease, and the city eventually settled with Russell for a $15,000 flat fee and an amicable split.

Once the settlement was complete, Perry began drafting the new lease.

The Aug. 22 meeting was the second pier team meeting devoted to the details of the new lease. The previous Aug. 1 meeting was emotionally charged as commissioners debated key issues, such as base rent, percentages, common area maintenance fees and defining the common areas.

Commissioners ultimately settled their differences with a monthly rent of $5,500 for the restaurant, plus an additional 12 percent of monthly gross revenues after the first $5,500 of revenue.

City officials also agreed to establish a common area maintenance fee with the city incurring 60 percent of the costs. The restaurant tenant will incur 20 percent, while the tenants of the bait kiosk and harbor master’s office each will pay 10 percent.

Officials also decided that should a large project be needed, the city would enact an assessment fee based on the same percentages.

The common area under the former lease was the entire pier, but commissioners agreed to an area from the front of the restaurant to the clock tower boardwalk and parking lot.

Among the many lease items addressed, commissioners agreed Aug. 22 rent payments would not begin until 180 days after a new tenant receives a certificate of occupancy.

Commissioners also agreed to set a security deposit at one-half of a month’s rent, or $2,750.

Officials addressed some of the issues that caused problems under the old lease, ensuring the tenant can make partial payments and outlining late payment fees.

If a tenant should find a situation out of his or her control, such as a tropical storm, the committee suggested an appeal system where the tenant could bring the issue to the city pier team, who then would make a recommendation to the city commission on whether to credit the tenant or not.

The parking lot at the restaurant is sometimes used for city festivals. Commissioner Gay Breuler wanted to ensure the city still had access to the parking lot for events.

Perry said the city reserves the right “to do what we want when we want to do it.”

She said providing notice would be the fair thing to do, but the city isn’t obligated to do that.

Breuler then asked about special event applications for events that also use the parking lot, such as the Christmas on Bridge Street celebration.

Police Chief Sam Speciale, the pier team facilitator, said the city typically has to ask the tenant for permission, but there has never been a problem because events bring business to the restaurant.

The city approved the request for proposal at an Aug. 2 city commission meeting and set a deadline of Sept. 6 for bid submissions.

Perry said as of Aug. 23 no bids had been submitted despite several people expressing interest.

She said she believes bidders may be waiting to hear more about the lease, but cautioned that the city may have to extend its bid deadline.

The RFP includes the opportunity to bid on the bait kiosk and harbor master’s office. Bidders may bid on one, two or all three of the pier facilities.

City officials ironed out details for the restaurant lease, but Perry said a lease for the other spaces would be a simpler process.

While commissioners are expected to approve the details of the lease, Perry said it only sets the framework for negotiations.

The winning bidder for the restaurant will negotiate with the city on its lease, and if terms can be reached, the lease will be signed. If not, the city has the right to enter into negotiations with the second highest bidder.

Should those negotiations fail, the RFP process would begin anew.

Interested tenants can contact city hall for lease information at 941-778-1005 or visit the clerk’s office at 107 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach.

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