ST. PETE BEACH — Twenty-three vendors qualified to submit bids to operate popular city-owned concessions at Upham and Pass-A-Grille Beach, currently known as Paradise Grille.
For 10 years both have been operated by Mike Janecek and his family, which received a five-year renewal in 2013. This year the city decided to see what other vendors might offer.
When the city in February decided not to renew Paradise Grille’s lease, Janecek told commissioners, "It hurts, I spent 10 years of my life and put my heart and soul into it. I rebuilt the place." His lease ends May 31.
A committee of staff members, composed of Saunders, the administrative services director and recreation director, will evaluate each bid, with the ability to get additional information. The committee will then choose no less than three and rank them for consideration by the City Commission. Once a top bidder is chosen the city will negotiate a contract.
"I noticed you are looking at experience, qualifications, scope of services, extent of business operations and the rent value," Mayor Al Johnson told staff. "My feeling is rent is probably not our main focus here. We’re looking at service, reliability and a bunch of other things."
"Absolutely," the city manager replied, "it’s not based on any one of those factors. It will be based on all the factors looked at together."
"I hope quality of food as well," Commissioner Terri Finnerty added.
"Although this is partially price based, it’s really a service the city is providing," Commissioner Ward Friszolowski said. "Both of those are great locations. We get lots of residents and also lots of tourists coming to visit, so we want to make sure it’s an ideal experience."
"To the credit of people doing it now, I hear nothing but good things as to the quality of the food they get," the mayor added. "I want to make sure we maintain something like that."
Commissioner Rick Falkenstein said bids should also consider "if you get red tide, cold weather, rain, can they adapt to deficiencies of sales? That’s really important. It’s not like an enclosed restaurant."
The current Pass-a-Grille concession stand at 900 Gulf Way includes a gift shop that will not be part of the lease, according to bid documents. The city plans to use that area to expand the restrooms.
The Upham Beach concession stand is at 6850 Beach Plaza. It is on a boardwalk that includes an outdoor eating area.
According to the bid application, as part of the five-year term lease, the concession stand will have to be open each day of the year from 6 a.m. until 30 minutes after sunset, regardless of weather conditions.
City commissioners unanimously agreed to move the bid process forward.