The city of Bradenton Beach scheduled a special commission meeting Oct. 8 to officially accept a new tenant and authorize lease negotiations to begin.
The vote seemed a formality after the commission gave a consensus Sept. 17 awarding the bid to Roland Pena and his investors over Fishermen Joe’s, the only other applicant.
However, someone forgot to invite city attorney Ricinda Perry to the meeting. Following discussion during the budget process, it was decided Perry’s attendance at city meetings would be by invitation, to keep attorney fees to a minimum. Her absence proved to be worthwhile because city officials and tenants expressed the need for more time to review the proposed lease.
“We just received the lease agreement,” said Mayor John Shaughnessy. “No one has had time to look at it. Ricinda is not here, but she sent an email saying she needed to add more people to the background and a credit check before negotiations could go forward.”
Shaughnessy suggested continuing the meeting until everyone had more time to fulfill the requirements and review the lease in more detail.
Both sides appeared willing to have a little more time before negotiations begin.
“I just want to make sure we do it right this time and do right by you,” Shaughnessy told Pena. “I don’t want it to be like last time, when it was like tires in a dump. You bury them and six years later they pop back up.”
Pena took no issue with continuing the matter and said he also had issues.
“Looking at the lease, I see things in the front section saying what we can do and then in the back it says something else,” he said. “Those are things we need to hash out.”
Pena was advised to submit some of his concerns in writing so commissioners could see them before they meet again.
In other matters, Pena’s chef was recently arrested on Bridge Street and he’s looking for a replacement. He initially told The Islander that it was suggested he distance himself from the alleged offender, but he told commissioners he would be demoting him.
Pena’s restaurant group is made up of family members and veterans. Pena said his former chef is a veteran who deserves another chance.
“We told him that he had to separate himself from the way he was and that this opportunity was bigger than him,” said Pena. “My wife and I stand behind this. We are going to be a family-oriented place.”
Pena explained the demotion but said, “He’s a veteran and we are going to help him.”
That was satisfactory to the commission, and Commissioner Ric Gatehouse said he was glad Pena understood what the consequences of an employee’s alleged behavior can have on the city.
“I’m glad to hear that you understand that as a leasee, you are in a partnership with the city and represent the face of the city,” he said. “We have to keep our best face forward.”
Commissioners rescheduled the special meeting for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Bradenton Beach City Hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.