Flagler Beach’s Golden Lion Cafe is expanding its reach into the heart of Palm Coast: it will be taking over restaurant, bar and concession operations at the troubled Palm Harbor Golf Club, the municipal course that, like its sister tennis center, has been losing money since it opened in 2009.
The financial terms of the lease have not been disclosed: they are not included in the documents posted with Tuesday’s City Council workshop agenda, when council members will presumably be seeing those terms for the first time. (Unlike other local government administrations, Palm Coast’s often withholds key figures or documents until the beginning of council meetings.)
This much is know: Golden Lion would sign a five-year lease to run the food and beverage operation in a facility that holds up to 78 people (though it seldom does). Golden Lion would serve the clubhouse restaurant and bar, provide beverage carts on the golf course, stock vending machines, and catering in or out of the clubhouse. (The facility will presumably have a liquor license.)
The lease to Golden Lion is city government’s latest attempt to stanch losses, this time by adopting a hybrid managerial approach. Rather than hand over the entire golf course to a management company, as was the case under KemperSports for eight years, the city will manager some of the golf course’s operations while contracting others. Concessions is one of those contracted services.
Just two firms submitted proposals when the city advertised the request for proposal: The Golden Lion and Bonner Mobile Bar Service of Tampa. Golden Lion easily won, and in mid-July created a new company, Green Lion Cafe, with Golden Lion’s Anthony Marlow and Timothy Conner as its managing partners, to run the Palm Harbor operation–assuming the Palm Coast City Council ratifies the agreement on Tuesday. There is little doubt that it will.
Green Lion will be required to improve the property, including restoring the deck, installing new flooring, painting, lighting and plants, and building a new bar. The dollar amount of those investments is not clear.
The last financial reports for the golf club and tennis center the city has posted publicly go back to January, by which time the golf club had already run up a loss of $100,000 (almost $20,000 more than expected) and the tennis center had run up a loss of $43,000, or $6,000 more than at this point the previous year. City Manager Jim Landon, with the council’s support, has for several years been portraying the golf club and the tennis center as tax-supported “amenities” no different than city parks, an incorrect analogy in many regards. Among those: city park operations are not subcontracted to vendors. And no city part charges money for the privilege of use.
But while both the golf club and the tennis club charge fees for use, neither operation would be viable without the additional city subsidy. With little or no evidence–at least none that this council and its administration have put forth when making the claims–council member and the manager have claimed that closing palm Harbor would hurt property values in its surrounding neighborhood.
For many years the draw at Palm Harbor Golf Club was its restaurant, when it was run by Flagler Beach’s Karen Barchowski, a chef who left a distinctive signature on the restaurant’s daily fare and gave the place a name more for its gastronomy than for its golf links.