In one of the final actions for Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy and Commissioners Ric Gatehouse and Gay Breuler Nov. 7, a new concessionaire for the Historic Bridge Street Pier was finalized.
While the chosen operators have had the support of the full commission since winning out over another bidder, the vote to officially award the request for proposal narrowly passed 3-2.
The three outgoing officials voted in favor of Roland Pena and his restaurant operation, newly named as Cast and Cage, while Commissioner Jan Vosburgh and Vice Mayor Ed Straight changed direction, voting against the bid.
Breuler moved to award the bid to Pena with Gatehouse seconding the motion. During discussion, Vosburgh said she changed her mind.
“With much regret I choose to vote no,” said Vosburgh. “After more review, I feel they lack experience. My heart says to give them a chance, but my head says to look out for the citizens and taxpayers of this city.”
Straight was hesitant to choose Pena during the bid process, but ultimately sided with the remaining commissioners. He did not explain why he changed his mind and voted with Vosburgh.
However, the motion passed 3-2 and Pena signed the lease the following day. The commission, with Pena’s corporation, also passed the final reading of an ordinance authorizing the lease in a 3-2 vote, again with Straight and Vosburgh dissenting.
Prior to approving the lease, Perry updated commissioners on a point raised during negotiations.
Previous tenants of the pier have not been asked to pay state or federal taxes on the property. However, the question was raised as to whether taxes have to be paid when the city leases to a private entity.
“In speaking with two representatives of the Internal Revenue Service, they said mostly likely it’s all taxable,” said city attorney Ricinda Perry. “The only way to know for sure is to get an official opinion from them and it would be binding.”
Perry said given the cost associated with getting the IRS opinion, she conducted her own research and believes by changing the lease language to read “concessionaire” it would remain tax exempt.
However, the bait shop and operations at the kiosk and harbor master’s office would be taxable at $35 and $48 a month respectively, as they are considered retail. They also plan to sell sandwiches and other food from their restaurant menu at the kiosk.
Perry said in order to cover the city she made the necessary changes in the rent to include the taxes.
Pena said the taxes were never a “deal breaker, so the changes that are made in the lease are not something we have an issue with.”
After the meeting, Pena said he was surprised by the 3-2 vote from a commission that had previously supported his efforts.
Earlier in the day, the city pier team meeting was held and Pena told commissioners how much he appreciated their support.
“We appreciate your help in the guidance we’ve received,” he said. “If not for all your help guiding us, we wouldn’t be here ready to sign the lease.”
For Pena, it’s all about moving forward. He said four of his staff now are food-safe certified with more certifications pending.
As soon as he moves equipment into the facility, inspections will commence and Pena said he’ll be decorating and opening the doors for business.
“We are hoping to open by Jan. 15 at the latest,” said Pena. “We want to open sooner, but no later than Jan. 15.”
In other matters, commissioners unanimously approved a temporary-use permit to the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., allowing two temporary restroom trailers and an office tent while renovations continue.
Commissioners also unanimously approved the appointment of Tjet Martin to the Scenic Waves Partnership Committee.