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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.

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. Marie Clark says:

    How nice. The City of Flagler Beach is inclined to ignore the interest of a successful local business in favor of an out of town business man. A great example of what is wrong with our world. The Pier would be a fabulous location for the Flagler Fish Company. They have proven themselves to be a well run operation and an asset to the community with their participation and generosity in community charitable events. Not to mention, they LIVE here. And they don’t have another restaurant in another county/city that will take part of their attention. Not to mention, we don’t need another fried seafood restaurant.

    I will not patronize any restaurant that goes onto the Pier if the city does not give the local restaurant operator and resident a FAIR opportunity to lease the property first.

  2. elaygee says:

    The whole thing is going to fall into the ocean after the next real storm hits so its all academic anyway.

  3. It would be nice if the residents and visitors in Flagler Beach and Flagler County had a nice place to go to, not just another place to buy fried fish, french fries and a couple of beers. I respectfully request that the City look into the quality and type of food they want served, not just the bottom line. The city has to be losing lots of tax revenue when Flagler residents drive to St. Augustine or Daytona for a decent meal for lack of decent local choices.

  4. Carole Dusseau says:

    I agree. Let’s not duplicate another of the many area restaurants but consider having a quality restaurant so that we don’t have to drive north to St. Augustine all the time and we can attract St. Augustine people to dine at Flagler Beach.

  5. starfyre says:

    the old owners are forgiven

  6. Strling09 says:

    We have a person willing to INVEST NOW in the city and not wait for another 18 months like the fish joint does wanting to wait till the lease runs out. The Meyers will not invest anymore money in that dump this close to the end of the lease and the best thing is we the people that live in town will not have to be BULLIED by the ARROGANT manager. BEST DEAL EVER. That is 2 HURRICANE seasons then let the Fish people change there minds and not do anything when it could have been up and running with people working on remodeling and have a nice new place to come in and enjoy. This guy wants to come in now and do this. WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? They need to stay in there little fish joint and cook there fish an chips for high dollars 2 blocks off the beach. Well MC I doubt if your not spending a dollar in this NEW PLACE will break the Bank because I will cover your dollar.

  7. Cyd says:

    :rofl: @ elaygee

  8. Ann DeLucia says:

    I totally agree with Mr. Dusseau! We go to the River Grille on rare occasions because the setting is quite nice, or we are on the way to something in the that area but definitely NOT for the food! Having better food provided by Flager Fish in a waterfront location would bring LOADS of folks to Flagler Beach. There are few enough good restaurants in the entire county now!

  9. Strling09 says:

    If you all want fish and beach let the fish joint move to Mannys. Plenty of parking for their high dollar fish and chips.

  10. Strng10@elo says:

    Everyone has a right to ther own opinion, I would like to say that most Flagler residents, including myself are ready to see the pier area brought into the 21st century. Take a close look at Flagler Fish Co. and take a close look at the Rivergrille. I have been to both establishments and in my opinion i have had a great meal at both places and i have also had a not so great meal at both places. That is not what this is about it is about the wheels that turn a buisness and the upkeep of the building and it’s surroundings. Sure the quality of the food and it’s hours of operation are important but It’s also about a vision and who can deliver it. Sorry to say i would not be to inclined to go to the Flagler Fish Co. if it was in that location in fear that the only thing that would change would be the food and the location. The pier needs more than a halfway decsent cook, it also needs a visionary and a buisness minded individual that will bring constant revenue and maintenance to the area.

  11. femmeniki says:

    Lets face it all of us on here DON’T like the PIER as is. here is a buisness that is willing to spend ALOT of cash on just the facelift of the existing building. Maybe they would get the LOCALS back! This guy seems to want to be here and has the money to be here and to start generating some NEW flow to the downtown flagler area, don’t really understand the whole runaround our city is giving him.From these articles posted why do we not see a proposal for buisness from the fish co.? I have frequented the rivergrille myself along with family,friends for food,drinks and the view. As far as i have observed they are succesful.I enjoy the food, a long with the setting!!THEY UPKEEP! All for the new look to the OUTDATED PIER not in 2 years( if even) but NOW! heck i may just apply to the NEW pier!

  12. Strling09 says:

    They don’t have a proposal with money on paper to show the city, they just want to talk about it for 18 more months till the lease runs out. Nobody wants the new business that will come in here and challenge their business because they are new.

  13. George_K says:

    Wow, all the morons who used to comment on the News-Journal have found a home here at FlaglerLive.com. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy that the ignorance will always have a place in the media. FLAGLER FISH CO. is a quality restaurant that is worth the money you pay. The menu changes all the time and the quality is probably too good for Flagler County and it’s clientele. I live in Flagler Beach and I know that most of the people here are satisfied with McDonalds and Ruby Tuesdays and call Outback Steakhouse fine dining. They drive to Palm Coast to eat, because we have few restaurants to offer any variety. Casper and the Flagler Fish Company have vision. How do you think they have lasted this long? How do any of you know what their vision is? Barshay may be a good business man and the RIver Grille isn’t bad, mediocre maybe. And if you’re requesting something that is “not another fried fish and french fry joint”, then you need to look past River Grille. Barshay’s success is due mostly to location. People will eat bad food if the view is nice, which is also the case with Manny’s and the Pier Restaurant. Take the Gold Lion for instance…The view is wonderful, they serve liquor, which is good, yet the service is terrible and the food here is also mediocre at best, but great for heart attacks. What you’re all not understanding here is that Barshay is getting the green light to open his business on City property, without an RFP, open for anyone else, which is illegal. A city must open the bidding process for anyone to offer their proposals. By letting Barshay take over the lease early, they are bypassing the step of requiring open bidding. The City of Flagler Beach will give Barshay clearance to do what he wants because he has courted Meyer and FB and has them eating out of his hand. Barshay wants to do a lot of things to that restaurant space that NO ONE else would be allowed to do. The building dept. of Flagler Beach is going to look the other way when it comes to renovations. Just wait…You will all be amazed by the things that will happen there. If he wants to turn it into Sunglow Pier, it is doomed. It will be another hokey, tourist trap that no self respecting local will go to. He will have seating on the pier itself, which will be a nightmare for everyone. He will probably be building another deck out over the sand, which no one along the beach is allowed to do. You can’t even mow your lawn in Flagler Beach without a permit and Barshay is going to be basically building a new restaurant on the pier. You all need to look at Barshay’s initial plans for that restaurant because you will then see Barshay’s vision. Normally it wouldn’t matter what he wants because he’s a private business owner, but when he’s putting his private business on public property, you’ve got an issue. The City of Flagler Beach needs to do some planning and do what’s best for Flagler Beach, not what’s best for their pockets. Look at the Pier renovations that have taken place. They botched that by taking the lowest bid, not the BEST bid. The contractor that did that work is a crook and it’s the same guy they hired to build the Beach Rescue shack. He offered the lowest bid, but then said the pier must be reinforced to do the work, which wasn’t in the bid at all but the city didn’t see that coming, because they didn’t look into it. The city’s policy on development is prohibitive and reactionary. It has never done a good job planning anything, which is why businesses fail in Flagler Beach. They are afraid of progress and won’t do anything that helps small business. The City should be providing incentives for people to open business here. LEGIT and LEGAL incentives…not back door, under the table deals. Helping small businesses open and stay open is the only way to make our city better and stronger. If you have nice shops and restaurants that people want to visit, they might stay a bit longer, they might even invest in a home in FB and contribute to the tax structure. The city is too busy pleasing it’s reactionary voters, who are a vocal few, without looking into the future. Redoing the landscaping and repaving some streets, is not urban planning.

  14. Strng10@elo says:

    Hey George-K, lets put all of your dramatics and finger pointing to the side and hope a catagory 5 wipes threw the town, Big words are just words get all of your facts straight moron.

  15. Strling09 says:

    Well thats it. George-K you win. You wrote the largest comment aren’t you proud. Did not impress me though. Sounds like you have a hard on for the city anyway so it would not matter what was going on you would write the largest comment. Must be so proud.

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. 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???

  19. DILLIGAF says:

    MAYBE NOW IF A NEW OWNER TAKES OVER THE PEIR RESTAURANT AND THEY DO NOT KEEP THE CONVICTED CHILD MOLESTER WORKING IN THE KITCHEN. MABE THEN HE WILL NOT BE AROUND ALL THE KIDS THAT ARE AT THE PEIR AND THE BEACH AND IF HE IS NOT WORKING AT THE PEIR IT MIGHT GET HIM OFF LAMBERT AVE WHERE HE RENT A ROOM THUST KILL TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE

  20. 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.

  21. 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?

  22. 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.

  23. 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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