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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Pier franchise agreement terminated in Bradenton Beach

Bradenton Beach is in the market for a new fishing pier franchisee.

City commissioners last Thursday terminated the lease of Karen and Jake Gallo, who had operated the restaurant-fishing franchise at the Bradenton Beach Fishing Pier for several years.

The lease termination was done under a clause in the contract that allows either the city or the franchisee to end their relationship if there was significant damage to the pier due to storms, winds or rain.

Recent storm damage from Hurricane Frances on Labor Day weekend caused massive damage to the roof of the restaurant, and rainfall caused water damage to the Gallo's equipment. The restaurant has been closed since the storm, and Bradenton Beach Public Works Director Dottie Poindexter said it would be at least a month before repairs could be completed and the facility re-opened.

The building is under the control of the city; equipment and the operation of the restaurant is the responsibility of the Gallos.

Although the storm damage was the cited reason for the lease termination, financial woes regarding the operation appeared to be the rationale behind some commissioners' thoughts regarding the decision.

Bradenton Beach collects 12 percent of the proceeds from the pier restaurant revenue and fishing charges, or $5,000 per month, whichever is greater. The funds go into a special account earmarked for pier improvements.

The pier account reached a peak in 1999 under different management when the proceeds were $1,020,000. The funds have dwindled since, and reached a low of $818,000 in 2003.

Jake Gallo blamed the economy on the reduced money.

"I don't think the times are as good as they could be," he told commissioners. "We took it as it was in a decline. I think the business on the Island has declined. We're doing the best we can. It's a very expensive pier to run. You may get rid of us and get someone better, but you may get someone worse, too."

Vice Mayor Anna O'Brien said that the "relationship [between the Gallos and the city] has not been a good one for a while, and I think it might be an appropriate time to terminate our relationship with the Gallos, make the repairs to the pier and then go out to bid for a new franchisee."

Commissioners unanimously approved the decision to terminate the Gallo's lease.

Poindexter said she was seeking estimates from contractors to repair the roof and would present the proposals to the commission as soon as possible.

A request-for-proposals for a new franchisee was also directed to be fast-tracked.