ST. PETE BEACH — Word spread through social media very quickly that the city planned to deny Paradise Sweets another extension of its five-year lease to operate its Paradise Grille concession stands on Upham and Pass-A-Grille Beach.
Loyal patrons filled a recent City Commission meeting. Resident Jay Lutz had only one question to ask commissioners, "Why ruin a good thing?"
But last week city commissioners unanimously voted not to extend the lease that terminates May 31.
Both Grille locations, at 900 Gulf Way and 6850 Beach Plaza, bill themselves as laid-back, beachside places, offering American-style eats out on a patio, plus music and a gift shop.
Mayor Al Johnson said the city has no complaints with the Grille or its owners. But, he said, the lease has become too cumbersome and complicated to administer.
He gave as an example a portion of the lease that includes a provision for incentives.
"I don’t want the city to be administering contracts like that,’’ he said. "We want a simple lease payment every month."
Paradise Sweets can bid on the new lease, Johnson noted.
"I don’t know that after 10 years we shouldn’t go stick our nose out, see what’s going on and what else is out there," Johnson said.
Grille co-owner Mike Janecek told commissioners, "It hurts, I spent 10 years of my life and put my heart and soul into it. I rebuilt the place."
Johnson noted he received 250 emails, all positive, asking for the lease to be renewed, "but we have to do what’s in the best interest of the city, such as having a much simpler contract to administer."