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Date of Issue: April 21, 2010

Holmes Beach commissioners back Cafe on the Beach operators

Dee Schaefer does not want to see Cafe on the Beach in Holmes Beach turn into a Key West-like restaurant, nor does the owner of P.S. Beach Associates want to leave the place she’s worked at for 21 years.

Now Schaefer, the operator of Cafe on the Beach, has some backing from the city.

At an April 13 city commission meeting at Holmes Beach City Hall, Mayor Rich Bohnenberger and the five commissioners agreed they each would write a letter to the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners opposing a committee recommendation to have United Parks Service out of St. Petersburg replace P.S. Beach as the concessionaire at Manatee Public Beach.

If the county board approves the county-appointed committee’s recent recommendation, UPS would take over operations at Coquina and Manatee beaches July 21.

The Holmes Beach commissioners were not against UPS operating Coquina Beach.

Melissa Assha of the county’s purchasing department, Elliott Falcione of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Cindy Turner of the county parks and recreation department, ranked P.S. Beach Associates second of the four companies that made proposals for Manatee Public Beach.

The committee rated UPS as having the highest compensation plan, which included profit sharing for the county.

P.S. Beach offered similar terms to its prior contract with a substantially higher monthly payment.

Bohnenberger said UPS’s proposal to give the county a portion of the alcohol and rental sales revenue does not guarantee more profit than P.S. Beach’s offer.

He said factors such as red tide, hurricanes and the economy could decrease revenue from the UPS profit-sharing plan.

“And part of their bid is based on expanded services they won’t be able to do,” Bohnenberger said. “So the bottom line is it won’t come close to what is being offered by the current vendors, who promised to pay every month regardless of the customer base.”

Bohnenberger specifically pointed out that UPS’s proposed revenue-boosting rentals — bicycles, scooters and kayaks — would all be in violation of the city code, as would its proposed tiki hut.

“I’ve already received e-mails from citizens of Holmes Beach upset with the decision,” Bohnenberger said, referring to the committee vote. “They don’t want it to turn into Key West or anything of that nature.”

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who also chairs the county Tourist Development Council, has said she also is not happy with the recommendation.

Some dining at the restaurant April 13 also did not want change, saying that the reason they go to Manatee Public Beach is because it is not overcrowded.

Madison Kenny, 15, of Valrico, thought UPS’s proposed Key West panorama on the back of the restaurant would be “kind of pointless.”

Scott Lafrese of St. Armands Bakery delivers bread to Cafe on the Beach five times a week. He said he’s never heard a complaint from customers.

“They run a good, tight ship,” Lafrese said.

Lafrese said he once asked Tommy Vayias, the Shaefers’ restaurant operator, why he hadn’t raised prices in years. “Tommy told me, ‘I want to give people a fair price for a large portion,” Lafrese said.

Holmes Beach resident Bob McCaffrey last week wrote to County Commissioner Joe McClash: “My basic point is: Knowing that on a busy weekend traffic already stretches down Manatee/Cortez Avenues beyond 60th street and becomes absolutely gridlocked on the Island, how can anyone seriously propose to make it worse? Is the goal to have traffic stopped dead from the Island to Zolfo Springs every day?”

City Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said Island stores already offer the rentals and ice cream UPS has proposed offering.

“When you go to this beach,” Haas-Martens said, “you have breakfast, you have dinner and sunset, and that’s family-oriented.”

Haas-Martens also expressed concern about the proposed rentals, saying they could present a hazard in heavy weekend traffic.

Schaefer, meanwhile, is preparing as though P.S. Beach Associates has lost its bid.

“I think that’s it except for what the power of citizens might do,” she said. “I’m hoping, and this is probably not realistic, that a big miracle happens and we get to keep it.”


By the numbers

Dee and Gene Schaefer of P.S. Beach Associates, in researching their second-place ranking for the Manatee Public Beach operating contract, asked two accountants to look over their bid and the bid submitted by United Parks Service.

The accountant used the actual numbers from the 2009 sales of P.S. Beach, to project income for 2010 for the percentages of sales offered by UPS.

Gross sales for P.S. Beach gift shop, and cafe food and alcohol in 2009 were $2,645,621, with $645,621 revenue for the gift shop, $1.78 million from food sales and $220,000 from alcoholic beverage sales.

According to the UPS contract offer to pay a percentage of sales, the volume of sales needed to meet or exceed the P.S. Beach offer would be greater, and the annual rent would be $146,400 less than the P.S. Beach offer of $326,400 annually.

The accountant projected the gross sales would have to be $4.4 million to amount to the same revenue as the P.S. Beach offer for a flat-rate rent, regardless of sales volume.