ST. PETE BEACH — Customers of Paradise Grille on Upham and Pass-A Grille beaches can sit back and enjoy their favorite beachfront eatery for at least another five years.
City commissioners unanimously voted recently to grant a lease to Starson LLC and owner Mike Janecek to operate the two city-owned concession stands as he has for the last decade.
During a five-month campaign in support of Janecek to keep his lease, patrons served up a lesson in fan loyalty and tenacity to commissioners during meetings, on social media and in emails.
Earlier this year commissioners said they wanted to test the restaurant waters and see what else was available from other vendors who might operate the two facilities.
The city sought bids from other vendors and set off a firestorm of objections from beach residents who enjoyed both Paradise Grille locations just the way they are.
At earlier meetings Janecek told commissioners, "It hurts, I spent 10 years of my life and put my heart and soul into it."
"We took hold of these two little concession stands and in 10 years molded and massaged them into the world class beach destinations they are today," he told city officials in his bid package, adding there is always room for improvement and he is ready to implement changes desired by the city.
After accepting bids, the City Commission initially chose to negotiate a contract with United Park Services, ranked first by staff.
UPS operates the Mad Beach Snack Shack on Archibald Beach in Madeira Beach, a concession stand for Pinellas County at Fort De Soto, along with Anna Maria Island and Coquina Beach concession stands for Manatee County.
Staff's second bid choice was Barry and Kelly Streib, operators of the Brass Monkey Restaurant for the last 13 years on Eighth Avenue in Pass-A-Grille. Janecek was selected third in bid rankings.
Earlier this month, City Manager Wayne Saunders told commissioners United Park Services dropped out of contention; Commissioners decided to negotiate a contract with Janacek's firm, which they said offered the best package.
According to the contract, the term of the lease with Paradise Grille is for five years, with one additional five-year extension available upon mutual agreement of both parties.
Janacek will pay a monthly rent of $15,000, and a 3 percent increase each year.
Staff added a request to contract terms, suggested by Commissioner Ward Friszolowski, that permits the city to terminate the agreement for convenience at any time with 90 days notice.