Newly named Bradenton Beach pier tenants rock the boat

One day after being singled out as the pier’s tenant of choice, the proverbial boat started rocking.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to select Starfish on the Bay as the new restaurant tenant on the Historic Bridge Street Pier, but bypassing city protocol set the boat teetering.

During the Sept. 19 city pier meeting, public works director Tom Woodard reported that on Sept. 18, the new tenants — pending a successful lease negotiation — were drawing city workers from their assigned work to discuss what might be needed at the facility.

“Shortly after we had our ranking meeting, some people from the chosen company were up at the pier and were instructing my people that were performing other duties as to what they wanted done to the restaurant,” said Woodard. “I didn’t appreciate it, and they did it again this morning.”

Woodard sent a letter to all departments asking that the restaurant owners be instructed on city procedures, which include asking city commissioners before approaching city staff.

Woodard said the work being requested was significant and the assumption was that the tenants were wanting the city to do the work.

“They are wanting significant changes that will require spending money,” he said. “I don’t want them assuming that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Commissioner Gay Breuler said they are new and enthusiastic and probably aren’t aware that there is a chain of command to follow and that she would personally inform them of what is required and what is considered improper.

City clerk Nora Idso also wasn’t happy. “I personally have an issue with them already taking it upon themselves to give direction to any staff,” she said. “We don’t take direction from anyone but the mayor.”

Idso reminded commissioners that there is no money in the budget for work on the restaurant.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said, “They don’t have a contract yet.”

Building official Steve Gilbert reminded commissioners that the lease states the city will take care of specific items agreed to during the pre-inspection process, but anything after that is going to be up to the tenant.

The city, he said, has met its obligations under the proposed lease agreement.

Breuler said she was sure it was just a miscommunication.

“We know it’s annoying when people come up to staff and say ‘Do this or do that.’ But they don’t know that, so it’s up to us let them know,” she said.

The prospective tenants appeared at the end of the meeting and Breuler made it clear that they are not to approach city staff without commission approval and they agreed.

Final negotiations for the lease are expected to begin soon between the tenant and city attorney Ricinda Perry. The lease will then come before the commission for approval.

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