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Ormond’s River Grille Owner Closer to Taking Over Flagler Beach’s Pier Restaurant

| July 23, 2010

Katalin Meyer's Pier Restaurant in Flagler Beach

Katalin Meyer hasn\’t been excited about running the Pier Restaurant since her husband died. (© FlaglerLive)

The Pier Restaurant in Flagler Beach may be part of the city’s iconic image. But for years, the restaurant has been an anemic greasy spoon that happens to have a fantastic ocean and pier view. The city owns the restaurant property but hasn’t been capitalizing on it. It’s leased to Katalin Meyer until 2012. Meyer, who’s let commissioners know that her heart isn’t in the business anymore, has been sending mixed signals since 2006 about her intentions, pledging then — even as a St. Augustine entrepreneur looked set to assume the lease — that she wouldn’t give it up until 2012 only to begin negotiating with Ormond Beach restaurateur Raymond Barshay late last year.

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Barshay owns the popular River Grille in Ormond Beach, where contemporary American cuisine mixes with Southern seafood and the usual fried and beer-battered appetizers of casual bars. Barshay now looks like the man who’ll take over the Pier Restaurant, possibly this year–in spite of, rather than with the help of, a city commission quite confused over what to do with the restaurant and how to do it. That was the result of a 90-minute discussion (to put it generously) at the commission Thursday evening, even though one other local business–Carolyn Casper’s Flagler Fish Company–wants to have a crack at the property as well.

But Barshay has the inside track: Meyer is willing to negotiate with him and not others, giving him what looks to other prospective businesses like an unfair–but entirely legal–advantage.

The city itself has bumbled through the process of figuring out who would take over the restaurant, issuing a “white paper” late last in spring that described the property and putting out what looked, in all but name, like a request for proposal from prospective buyers. The city advertised in a few places for parties interested in either assuming the restaurant’s lease or lining up to take it over in 2012. It got barely a few nibbles. All along, Barshay was waiting, his proposal already formulated. On Thursday, commissioners debated again how and when to put out an official RFP, to give other businesses a chance, much to Barshay’s exasperation.

“I’ve been here a number of times,” he said, “I keep hearing that, I’m not trying to be difficult about it, but I’ve continued to hear that and little has come out of the woodwork.”

One business that did come out of the woodwork is the locally-owned Flagler Fish Company. “I think what we’re seeing tonight is a lot of unknowns,” Casper said. “As a resident here in town, raising a family, and the reason we moved here and why we live here, we want to see what’s best for Flagler Beach. What is best for Flagler Beach? Been waiting 20 years for the lease to come up, not us personally, because we haven’t lived here that long, but many residents have. Instead of rushing into something, possibly having your hands forced at this time, whether we end up in the space, Mr. Barshay ends up in the space, or somebody else, what is best for the city? I think there are a list of unknowns and I think you need to take the time to establish what will make the city money, what does the city want? Perhaps the city should form the lease in their mind what’s best for them: This is what we’re offering, who’s interested? There’s not going to be a short line of people that are interested in that space. I can guarantee you that.”

But there was less than a short line of people when the city advertised the space in spring, although the city didn’t advertise it broadly: ads went up in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa, briefly.

Another resident asked the commission pointed questions: “Have you done your due diligence? Have you found out what the daily cash receipts are, coming in and out of that restaurant? Do you know how much cash flow goes in there? Do you know what the gross income is on a monthly basis?” The answer, on all counts, is no.

Meanwhile, here’s what Barshay is proposing:

  • Take over the existing lease and assume its various terms for the two years remaining on it.
  • Enter into a 10-year lease, with option to renew three times in five-year increments.
  • First year lease: $35,000. Subsequent years’ amounts to be negotiated.
  • Additional rent based on 1 percent proceeds of sales above $1.2 million in first two years, going up to 2 percent in third and fourth year. In the fifth and all subsequent years, extra rent would be based on 2 percent of sales above $1.5 million.
  • Barshay would invest $400,000 to $500,000 in the property in exchange for being allowed to renovate interior and exterior, :”so long as it is generally in keeping with the character and nature of the building.”
  • It’ll be up to the city to deliver the building in compliance with all building and city codes.
  • Outside seating will be provided, including uses of certain “common areas” of the pier.

Barshay, whose operation would also sublease the bait and tackle shop at the pier, looks to incorporate that shop and the toll-taking for the pier into a single operation to maximize profits.

In a previous letter to the commission, his vision for the restaurant included bringing “a vision and personality to life that marries the history of Flagler Beach with the casual feel of a charming coastal community.” The restaurant would have decor “theming” focused on all-day and evening dining with a menu that “embraces local and regional tastes (new southern) but is also well seasoned with favorites/styles from New England, New Orleans, The Islands, Italy and other tempting offerings we will continue to find and develop.”

In other words, a River Grille at the pier, minus the boat-docking. (The River Grille enables boats to dock up to the restaurant.)

The commission agreed, unanimously, to let City Manager Bernie Murphy negotiate with Barshay on those terms. That means no requests for proposal. It also means virtually shutting out, for now, other prospective businesses interested in the property.

“If we don’t come to terms with Mr. Barshay,” Commission Chairman John Feind said, “we will certainly be putting out an RFP for people to come and take over the thing. But that’s not the case now because only one person has the option to buy that business right now. And he’s asking us, if he buys the business, he’s asking us to extend the lease. He doesn’t want to put hundreds of thousands of dollars in, and then be thrown out in two years. That’s what we’re talking about now. There’s no final decision made. We’re going to negotiate, Bernie and our attorney will negotiate. If we can’t come to terms, then we will go out for an RFP when the time is up.”

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23 Responses for “Ormond’s River Grille Owner Closer to Taking Over Flagler Beach’s Pier Restaurant”

  1. DennieK says:

    I visited my Aunt here in Flager every summer from 1982 till I moved here. I’ve lived in Palm Coast since 1989. 2 of my 4 children have been born here and attend FPC and Indian Trails Middle School. I am active in this community with school committees, Special Olympics, church council. I’ve never been to the Flagler Fish Company and have no interest in going there. If the place is so good, why is it that I’ve never heard anything about it. I think if someone is willing to invest many thousands of dollars in a building that is owned by the city, what is the problem? Some of you say back door/under the table deals; however, it sounds like a lot of family and friends of this Flagler Fish Company are making comments here to distort what actually is happening. If Flagler Fish Company is so good, how long has it been operating and obviously someone is not doing their job if someone that has lived here 21 years and works here doesn’t even know where it is located. I’ve been to RiverGrille and it’s not all about fried fish. Read the menu. Ormond Beach or Flagler Beach; it’s all local!


  2. Will says:

    DennieK, just a suggestion….

    The Flagler Fish Company is a terrific restaurant. It may or may not be your choice of a place to dine, but please don’t knock it just because you haven’t heard of it. Whether or not they have a chance to move to the pier location is a separate question from the high quality of the food and dining experience the restaurant provides. I’m delighted they’re here.


  3. AACHMED says:

    Wow, Reading all the Comments above on the Flagler Pier Restaurant makes me wonder how So many Expert Food Critics Could live in the Same Town! If some of you Dont like the Food that a Certain Place Offers, Go somewhere Else! We have been to All of the Places mentioned and Have had some Great Meals at all of them! After Reading “George’s” Short Story” his intent was to Bash the City, not give imput on who would be best suited to take over thePier Restaurant, but then again his Idea of a Good meal probably goes in the Microwave! Whoever gets to take over the Pier Restaurant cant possibly do any Worse than whats there now! Dont you just love it when their Cooks and Waitresess are standing out Front Smoking as Your walking into the Pier! YUMMY!! As for the Golden Lion, They have some Wonderfull People working for them, but Dont forget No Air Conditioning to be found, those servers have it ruff ! We lost the one of the BEST Restaurants we Ever had in Flagler Beach, “Caribbean Sin” and thats Just my opinion. I think most everyone loves a wide Variety of Choices and being Beachside, The Fresh Clams, Oysters, Shrimp and Fish are a Must ! Id love to see a cook-off among the above mentioned Restaurants Current menu’s and have you all sample and choose what you think was your favorite without knowing who Prepared what!! I wish whoever gets in the pier all the best! Just Hope its NOT another Pizza Joint!!! Oh, one more tidbit, Who gets the Money from the Vending Machines on the Pier , How much do they take in a Year and Who pays the Taxes on that income???


  4. DILLIGAF says:



  5. Barshay is willing to dig deep to give the Flagler Pier a much needed face lift, take over selling bait and save he city a ton of money, and bring a variety of foods to the restaurant, not just more of the same fish sandwiches and burgers to the restaurant. He has asked the City to allow him to expand the deck so customers can get a view while they eat, something they don’t have now. He is willing to buy out the current owner rather and renegotiate the lease with the City rather than let it die a slow death, and he is also very experienced (20 years) in the operation of a similar restaurant in Port Orange. He brings savvy to the table. What if the Pier needs work? He has contacts he can introduce to the City who know how to do it at a reasonable price. I also think FFC had the chance to buy out the owner, and decided not to go that route, and is not willing to refurbish, just move in and start cooking. If FFC moves from its current location, there will be an empty restaurant and some employees are going to be let go. If Barshay gets it, there will be 2 restaurants in town, always good to have a little competition to get the juices (PUN INTENDED) flowing.


  6. KC says:

    I just stayed a week in Palm Coast and ate at Flagler Fish Co. and it was DELICIOUS!!! Walked by the Pier Restaurant and the kitchen (screen) door was open and it smelled like dung in there. I am a native Floridian and lived in Flagler Beach before there ever was a Palm Coast and I hated to see it come because I knew it would ruin Flagler Beach and it has. Flagler was an awesome beachside town and nobody cared about the stupid restaurants because it was just an awesome place to live. Not now, though, because there are too many transplants. What a shame. The last thing that needs to happen is to totally change Flagler Beach. Go to Daytona, it’s already ruined and has plenty of restaurants and tourists. Can you say Orlando?


  7. SKG says:

    Flagler Fish Co. is delicious but has no view, whereas the pier is about the worst food I’ve ever put in my mouth but the view is awesome and the architecture is exactly right the way it is. Therefore Flagler Fish Co. should take over the excellent view and excellent set-up and start serving its excellent food there. Obviously. I come over there from Gainesville a couple times a year. If they did this? I would come over there from Gainesville more times a year. If this other thing comes in and turns it into outback steakhouse on the water? I will come over there from Gainesville no times a year. From one dullard-city-commission-ruint podunk Florida town to another, with all my love, I promise you that Flagler Fish Co. is your best bet. And I am one of a whole Gainesville crew. We like to eat and rollick in Flagler and stay at our friend’s very awesome beach house. But we fixing to eat and rollick some other where if you let your city mess this up.


  8. William Otter says:

    The proposed Flagler Beach pier restaurant is going to be a large high volume operation. The River Grille operation (future tenants) produces low cost, low quality mass produced food so there will be little good to say about what is offered at the new restaurant.

    What impact will be made upon little Flagler Beach? Where will the customers park? A1A is only one lane wide and with cars backing out continuously into the traffic flow, accidents and dangerous conditions will persists 100% of the time. The location and roads are NOT compatible or able to support such a traffic load.

    This large restaurant was poorly thought out and is a major problem waiting to explode. All of Flagler Beach citizens will suffer from this poorly conceived project.


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