Bradenton Beach cooks up final pier restaurant lease

Ordering! Perhaps by January, workers will be hired by new operators and pier diners will be ordering from a new menu on Bradenton Beach’s historic pier.

Bradenton Beach commissioners voted 4-0 at an Oct. 24 special city commission meeting to pass the first reading of an ordinance accepting a lease agreement between the city and a new tenant for the city pier restaurant.

Vice Mayor Ed Straight was absent for the vote.

Negotiations between the city and Cast and Cage restaurant operators have been ongoing with some minor changes occurring at the meeting in preparation for a Nov. 7 final reading.

After two meetings of working out lease concerns on both sides of the table, restaurant operator Roland Pena had few issues to address before commissioners moved on with the first reading of the ordinance. He did, however, bring up a negotiation point that was not clarified for commissioners.

Pena said that during negotiations, it was agreed that if the restaurant was damaged and closed due to influences outside of his control, such as storms, the city would consider abating monthly rent fees.

Further, he said, should the restaurant be granted an abatement and later default on the lease, it would be required to pay the back rent for the time it was abated.

“It says we have to go back and pay the whole thing,” said Pena.

Mayor John Shaughnessy said if an abatement should be granted, then the renter should not be required to pay for that period of time.

“An abatement is an abatement,” the mayor said. “If the roof flies off and you need six months and default a year later, the fact remains that we agreed to the abatement. I don’t see why you would have to pay that back. What’s the point of giving an abatement if, in the end, you have to pay it back?”

Commissioners Gay Breuler and Ric Gatehouse agreed, but city attorney Ricinda Perry said such a provision is allowable under state law.

“The way I viewed it is we negotiated to abate in good faith, but if they default for some (other) reason then it becomes a bad tenant situation,” said Perry. “Then the city should come back and say, ‘We negotiated in good faith and now you aren’t operating in good faith.’”

Perry allowed, however, that it was a policy decision for the commissioners to make.

Gatehouse said it should be stricken from the lease.

“In a sense of fair play, if there is a legitimate reason to give them an abatement and a year a later they default for some other reason, I think making them pay that back is piling on,” he said. “We make a deal and we should stand up to our end of the bargain.”

Perry said she would strike it from the lease before the final reading at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, city commission meeting.

Highlights of the agreement include a two-year term for the lease with the right to renew at two years, three years and five years — a total of 12 years.

The tenants agree to pay a base rent of $5,500 a month through the first two years, $5,665 for the second two years and $5,835 a month for the remaining periods.

The restaurant also will pay 12 percent of gross revenue above the base rent and an undetermined maintenance fee.

Pena said he hopes to have the restaurant open by mid-January, but his group is shooting for an earlier date.

Rusty Roberts, who will operate the bait shop, said the kiosk, as well as the harbor master’s office, should be open within 30 days of the lease being signed. The harbor master’s office is being subleased to a charter boat company that will launch tours from the pier.

Perry said negotiations with Pena went well.

“I have done a lot of negotiations that have been difficult and highly unsuccessful,” said Perry. “I just want to say that I found him to be very responsive and easy to negotiate with. He never waited to the last minute and always came prepared for a clarification he needed.”

Pena said he knows the first year will be rough, but is excited that the island community is showing strong support for his plans.

He said his cousin is a graduate of a New York culinary school and owns two restaurants.

“He’s going to come to work with our chefs for the first 90 days to help get the menu going,” said Pena. “The amazing thing is that everyone from the island is reaching out to my family.

“We have a lot of support. Everyone wants to see Bridge Street succeed again and so do we.”

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