LARGO — The owner of the cafe at the Largo Public Library got a break on rent, but she didn't get the relief she hoped for.
City leaders agreed this month to lower the Bookmark Cafe monthly rent from $1,638 to $1,000, the amount the city charges the owner at Largo's golf course cafe.
"I was shocked," said library cafe owner Dalal Mansour, who hoped city leaders would shave more off her rent so she could cope with dwindling business.
But, she said, she was grateful that several commissioners took her concerns seriously. Three supported charging her $850 a month instead.
Commissioner Robert Murray pointed out that other nearby library cafe owners pay $500 or less.
Two commissioners, Mayor Pat Gerard and Woody Brown, said residents complained to them about cafe food and service. Gerard told Mansour she should survey her customers.
Said Brown: "If the quality and service was there I think we wouldn't be having this conversation."
Commissioner Rodney Woods countered, saying he had heard "the food was great and people love it." But Woods, who backed lower rent, added that wasn't the core issue.
"If we want this cafe to exist in this library, then we're going to do what it takes to keep someone at some livable wage," he said.
Mansour said the outpouring of support she has received from customers was more important than a few hundred dollars a month.
She hasn't taken a paycheck for herself for three months, she said, and recently borrowed $10,000 from family to buy merchandise and pay the city rent.
"I'm going to try to make it," Mansour said. "I have hope."
Lorri Helfand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4155.