Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Largo city commissioners disagree on next step for Bookmark Cafe

Dalal Mansour is the independent owner of the Bookmark Cafe inside the Largo Public Library. She wants to renew her city contract.

SCOTT KEELER | Times (2009)

Dalal Mansour is the independent owner of the Bookmark Cafe inside the Largo Public Library. She wants to renew her city contract.

LARGO — Some residents and commissioners are unhappy with the way the Bookmark Cafe inside the city's public library is operated by its independent owner, Dalal Mansour.

Other locals and lawmakers praise both her food and service.

And as such, the City Commission is split on what to do about extending Mansour's contract — for five years, one or none at all.

Commissioners directed city staff on Tuesday to begin drawing a one-year contract with Mansour, though the term could change before they vote on the final terms.

On Thursday, Commissioner Mary Gray Black asked for a five-year extension be put to vote at the City Commission meeting Tuesday.

Commissioners Gigi Arntzen, Curtis Holmes, Harriet K. Crozier and Vice Mayor Woody Brown indicated they would rather put the cafe contract out for a bid than renew the existing agreement.

Their reasons include more than two dozen complaints from customers over the past two years, expressing dissatisfaction with Mansour's attitude and her food quality.

"We observed rudeness and curtness to the customers. We witnessed hurtful remarks to teens," wrote Largo High School teacher Sharon Feldhake in a complaint.

Feldhake had taken her class on a library tour, and wrote that Mansour treated her students poorly when they visited the cafe.

"It disturbs me that when you are in the public eye, you are not being courteous at all times," Crozier said.

Commissioners Black and Robert Murray, along with Mayor Patricia Gerard, have said it's only fair that Mansour receives some kind of extension.

"I will maintain that the way we notified her for her failure to notify us left the door open for this one. It was poorly worded in the first place. I think we have some legitimate issues there," said Gerard. "The public seems to be relatively happy. We've gotten a lot of positive comments about her, too."

The cause for the debate arose last fall, after Mansour failed to renew her contract with the city by the Sept. 26 deadline for an additional five-year term.

She did contact the city as soon as she realized the deadline had passed, after she received a letter from Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert dated Oct. 7.

"Is it correct for me to assume that you do not wish to renew the agreement with the city?" Schubert wrote.

She thought it was only a matter of time before her renewal went through. Instead, Mansour said, she was notified that the city would be seeking a new owner, and that she had until June 23 to vacate the cafe.

At a March 2 meeting, commissioners told staff to hold off on seeking new proposals while a new contract is negotiated, rather than just renewing Mansour's existing one.

"I think this is a gotcha. I think we wanted to put this out to bid, therefore we weren't a very courteous landlord," Gerard said at that meeting.

Former Largo commissioner Rodney Woods, who said he frequents the cafe, said it appears that there has been some interest in asking for other requests for proposals.

"I don't believe that the big picture issue is that Ms. Mansour is a couple days late with notification. That's really not a big deal. I don't think that's the main thing," Woods said. "Through the rumor mill, I think there's an entity affiliated with the city of Largo that is interested in taking over that cafe. If they want to do that, that's fine and well — they should just be straight up with the current person in there."

In the past, the Greater Largo Library Foundation has made attempts to take over ownership of the cafe. In 2007, the foundation offered Mansour $20,000 in cash to take over her contract, which she declined.

Scott Thompson, the foundation's chief executive officer, said his organization still has an interest in acquiring the cafe.

"If it did go out to an RFP (request for proposal), we would bid," Thompson said. "We're just looking for revenue-generating sources for the foundation."

Dominick Tao can be reached at (727) 580-2951 or dtao@sptimes.com.

Largo city commissioners disagree on next step for Bookmark Cafe 03/13/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 12, 2010 5:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa driver dies after swerving off Interstate 4 into canal

    Accidents

    PLANT CITY — A Tampa driver swerved off Interstate 4 Wednesday morning, plunging into a canal in a fatal crash, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.

  2. Editorial: Scott should keep demanding better for seniors in nursing homes

    Editorials

    The horrific story of elderly Floridians dying from the heat in a Broward County nursing home after surviving Hurricane Irma grows more outrageous. Even as a ninth death has been reported, the nursing home blames the state and has filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Rick Scott's move to prevent it from accepting new …

    Even as a ninth death has been reported, the nursing home blames the state and has filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Rick Scott’s move to prevent it from accepting new patients or Medicaid payments.
  3. DCF announces $133 million in federal aid for low-income families who lost food during Irma

    Hurricanes

    An additional $133 million is being distributed to Florida low-income families to help replace food destroyed by Hurricane Irma, the Florida Department of Children and Families announced today.

    The United States Department of Agriculture has made $133 million available to Florida low-income families to help them replace food damaged during Hurricane Irma
  4. A meatless burger that tastes like meat? Ciccio Restaurants will serve the Impossible Burger.

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The most red-hot hamburger in the nation right now contains no meat.

    Luis Flores, executive chef at Ciccio Restaurant Group, prepares an Impossible Burger at Epicurean Hotel's Food Theatre. Impossible Burger is a plant-based burger that will launch on Sept. 27, 2017 in all the Ciccio Restaurant Group locations, except for Fresh Kitchen. "This burger caters to the carnivorous, not just the vegetarians" said Jeff Gigante, co-founder at Ciccio Restaurant Group. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  5. Plan your weekend: Sept. 22-24: Buffyfest, Arcade Fire, Howl-O-Scream, Wanderlust 108 and 'Rent'

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    Pop show

    Florida Björkestra's Buffyfest: Pop culture meets pop music when the Florida Björkestra, a 20-piece alternative-classical ensemble that tributes ground-breaking pop artists, on Saturday will play with eight vocalists for "Once More with …

    The 20th anniversary tour of RENT, shown in 2016, comes to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 19-24, 2017. Photo by Carol Rosegg.