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Rebuilding Captain’s BBQ in Place Is ‘Off the Table,’ But Decision On New Lease and Location Is Delayed

| April 3, 2019

It is becoming increasingly likely that Captain's BBQ at Bing's Landing will be moved closer to the Intracoastal Waterway, in place of a pavilion and popular gathering spot. (© FlaglerLive)

It is becoming increasingly likely that Captain’s BBQ at Bing’s Landing will be moved closer to the Intracoastal Waterway, in place of a pavilion and popular gathering spot.
(© FlaglerLive)

A much-anticipated meeting of the Flagler County Commission to decide the fate of Captain’s BBQ at Bing’s Landing, the county park, ended in a lurch: No decision for now, but some clarity on what will not happen: the county is not willing to repair the existing restaurant at its own expense. Rather, it is favoring building a new structure, but not necessarily on Captain’s more expansive terms.

Those plans will be drawn up by early May. “We’re certainly not ready to vote today on this,” Commissioner Greg Hansen said.

Commission Chairman Don O’Brien said his instinct is to let the Captain’s lease run its course “and be done with it.” But he said that would not be realistic. Rather, “some derivation” of a plan for a new Captain’s building closer to the Intracoastal would be possible, but it would have to be the “exact same size and scope that it is today, but new, if we can get to that.” That might mean no liquor license, and no expansion to 150 seats. What that plan will look like is now in the hands of Interim County Administrator Jerry Cameron and his staff.

What is certain is that any further possibility of the county itself assuming the costs of repairing Captain’s at the existing location is “off the table,” in Hansen’s words.

“I’m not willing to spend $733,000 on the park and Bing’s Landing, so Option 1 as it’s presented is not a possibility for me,” Commissioner Dave Sullivan said, referring to other costly problems the county has to resolve ahead.

It was not the sort of resolution opponents of the restaurant’s expansion had in mind. But nor was it the sort of resolution Captain’s itself was looking for. If compromises are made up of resolutions that leave no one happy, this one may be the compromise that finally wins commissioners’ approval.

Today’s 140-minute meeting was well-tempered, with smatterings of applause the only expressions of emotion.

Heidi Petito, the county’s facilities manager, briefed the commission on two options. The first would be to stay in the existing structure. But she presented it clearly as the lesser option. The building dates back to the 1950s. It pre-dates building codes. It’s been in pieces, requiring many repairs, including floor and kitchen repairs the county conducted since January. Repairing the whole structure would cost, by the county’s estimate, $480,000, with total costs (including the extension of a sewer line) at $733,000. Costs would exceed 50 percent of the value of the property, making reconstruction less than desirable. The whole cost would be borne by taxpayers. The business would have to stop operating for nine to 12 months, exposing the county to liability.

If the restaurant was moved closer to the water in place of an existing pavillion there, Petito said, Captain’s would assume all construction costs, which she placed at $1 million. Captain’s would assume the cost of a sewer line extension, placed at $147,000. Only two palm trees would be removed. The business could continue to operate without interruption during construction. “It is perceived as a larger impact,” Petito said of moving the restaurant closer to the Intracoastal, “when in fact when you look at the footprint of the existing facility, the new option is actually a smaller footprint but it’s better organized,” Petito said.

Opponents seized on the numbers being presented, including Commission Chairman Don O’Brien, who did not like the series of question marks the county’s slide had placed next to “Cost of Business Interruption.”

The meeting on Captain's BBQ at Bing's Landing drew a full house at the commission meeting this morning. (© FlaglerLive)

The meeting on Captain’s BBQ at Bing’s Landing drew a full house at the commission meeting this morning. (© FlaglerLive)

“I’d like to have an idea of the magnitude we’re talking about here,” O’Brien said, referring specifically to profit and loss. “This is a big hangup for me.” He asked Interim County Administrator Jerry Cameron and County Attorney Al Hadeed if the county had requested the business’ profit-and-loss statement. It had not. It had merely requested some figures to help the county make its determination. The figures were not provided. “We don’t know,” Cameron said.

O’Brien wasn’t comfortable with the uncertainty. “It’s hard to make a good decision when we can’t quantify what we really have at risk.”

Hadeed said that the amount of damages “would not be ascertainable” even if a profit and loss statement were provided, and noted that profit and loss statements are confidential for private businesses. That’s true on private property. It’s not necessarily the case on public property. In Flagler Beach, the private company running the golf course on city-owned property is routinely required to provide monthly profit and loss statements, and the Funky Pelican, the restaurant at the pier, is required to provide the city similar accounts so the city can collect its share of profits, based on agreed-upon percentages. Both business’ requirements were written into the leases. Captain’s does not have to provide its statements because that requirement was not included in the lease, nor did the county require a profit-sharing arrangement, though it could very well have, just as Flagler Beach does.

Jay Livingston, the lawyer representing Captain’s, defended the original lease and subsequent amendments, all of which were approved by the commission, “so it did not happen in the shadows.” He said rebuilding in place would stress the trees and risk more die-off than moving to the location closer to the water.

Others in support of Captain’s spoke of the difference in costs to the county: the business willing to assume most costs of construction in one option (if the restaurant were moved) as opposed to the county having to assume most costs if it were rebuilt in place. One Captain’s advocate implied opponents of the deal are “selfish” for not wanting to share the benefits of the park and the restaurant.

Opponents united around a common theme: there’s no opposition to the restaurant per se, but only to its move to a different location, its expansion or the parking lot’s expansion, and its addition of a liquor license. Some questioned why the restaurant would not release a profit-and-loss statement. Some spoke about the “gifts” the county showered on the restaurant to subsidize its operations. Some questioned the county’s own cost estimates of repairing the current structure. A business owner described the arrangement with Captain’s as “preferential treatment” for a particular business. “Captain’s is taking advantage of the county at every step of the way,” the business owner said. Randy Odum, another business owner, called the arrangement with Captain’s “a Trojan horse” that circumvents numerous requirements imposed on all other private businesses. Some proposed just letting the lease expire, ostensibly in 2021.

“You have so generously gifted Captain’s owners that it is truly stunning. Low rent, no taxes, free parking and all sorts of things. Santa Claus has come to Bing’s,” Carol Scott, who’s been active in the opposition, told commissioners. “And Mr. Hadeed fears the restaurant owners will bring suit if they don;t get their way. It’s like suing Santa Claus for heaven’s sake.”

Dennis Bayer, the Flagler Beach lawyer who represents the Hammock Community Association, gave commissioners a brief history of Bing’s Landing, its acquisition with taxpayers’ Environmentally Sensitive Lands dollars, and the original lease for Captain’s BBQ, which saw the restaurant as an “ancillary” amenity in the park, not its centerpiece. Bayer recalled the words of Barbara Revels, one of the county commissioners when the commission approved the 2011 lease, who said that “not one tree should be removed” as a consequence of that lease. Yet the county and the restaurant have gone “well beyond the scope of what the commission envisioned in 2011,” Bayer said. He called a proposed liquor license for the restaurant, which would enable seat expansion to 150, a “dangerous precedent” in a facility on public land, intimating that Princess Place would be next. He told commissioners that “fear of liability” is overriding public benefit at the park. And he ridiculed the county’s assumption that Captain’s should face no risk, or that the operation could not sustain some interruption if the county were to conduct repairs on the building.

Some 70 minutes into the meeting, and after eight people from the audience had addressed commissioners, Captain’s pulled a surprise: give us 20 minutes to re-negotiate some terms. The audience jeered. O’Brien gaveled. His colleagues agreed to a 20-minute recess. When the meeting resumed, Cameron explained that Captain’s owners may be willing to work with the county on a work-around to the business interruption. Cameron didn’t give further details. “There are a couple of ways that might happen,” Cameron said, “but should you choose to go with the rebuild option, we would negotiate between now and the first meeting in May, but it doesn’t really change your fundamental decision here.”

But in the end, and yet again, there was no final decision.

28 Responses for “Rebuilding Captain’s BBQ in Place Is ‘Off the Table,’ But Decision On New Lease and Location Is Delayed”

  1. Coyote says:

    ‘Those plans will be drawn up by early May. “We’re certainly not ready to vote today on this,” Commissioner Greg Hansen said.’

    But you WERE ready to vote (and implement) an arrangement several months ago – without any further investigation or discussion of costs or alternatives – but you got caught in the public eye, and now have to find some way to squirm out of it.

  2. Concerned Citizen says:

    And our BOCC continues the charade and shennanigans.

    I’m with coyote on this one. You weren’t ready to vote today because you got caught. Plain and simple. You accepted large bribes oops I meant “campaign contributions” wink wink from the owners. You were therefor obligated to appease the owners. They thought they had free reign to take over Bings. Thankfuly local media caught it and is keeping public pressure up.

    Our BOCC no longer represents the citizens of Flagler County. Between Bings and the Vacation Rental issue they stand with special interests. That’s what happens when you accept money and it replaces your ethics and morals.

    The City Commision and mayor are no better. I just saw on this website a donation page asking for donations for the sculpture park. Why?? It’s on public land built without public input. You fund it. Yet again it was selected by a special interest group who refers to it’s detractors as “assholes”

    Imagine if a donation page went up for building homeless shelters and funding staff and programs.
    What a difference that would make. Where is the outcry for that? We sure have priorities mixed up in this county. BBQ,Unrealistic statues and Vacation. I guess that’s where the money is.

    Folks we have elections coming up again soon. Please remember everyone who made campaign promises. Then FAILED to follow thru. That should hold the same water as us reporting to work everyday and telling our boss yes I’ll do it then we don’t. We would be fired right?

    Remember that WE CAN manke changes and demand our representatives do their jobs.

  3. Kathy says:

    Just curious, why is most everyone in the audience wearing green? Looks like a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

  4. Jim says:

    What would be wrong with the Captains’s bar b q to be voted on by the voters to make the decision since the voters voted 3 times for tax increase to purchase bings landing park as well as other public lands. It would seem to be a better solution than the BOCC making the decision. Parks are for recreation not being run for businesses which take up valuable park amenities.

  5. Sean peckham says:

    Finally a solution that makes sense and made by Petito same footprint better building and at Captains expense! I can’t say much more but Petito you hit this one on the head! Everyone is happy!

  6. atilla says:

    Those county commissioners are a joke. Their next decision will be their first. Now they pass the buck to the new guy. Why are we funding private businesses? This might be a good place for the hobos and bums living by the library. I’ll bet if this were the case the people living in the Hammock would take action quickly.

  7. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    Funky Pelican pays $3,000 rent per month to Flagler Beach plus 3% over their first million $ GROSS profit per year. They have no direct beach or water access, no private parking, and they are not ‘complaining’.

    How many hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money has already been paid ( and totally wasted) to county staff and our elected commissioners for the sole purpose of helping two men become multi-millionaires ( don’t kid yourselves – its about a COP hard liquor license requiring 150 seats and NOTHING ELSE) with only $1,000 total security deposit with the county and under $1,000 rent with not a dime of their gross profits going back to us taxpayers?

    Maybe Michael Goodman has done well in real estate, stocks or the lotto but it sure raises my eyebrows to see hat he ‘improved’ his home with over $500,000 of ‘assessed ( not even market) value by adding a boat lift ,boat house, boat dock, oversized over 750 square foot pool – fireplace – and more since opening Captains.

    Al Hadeed once again, made a jackass of himself ( my non professional opinion), by incorrectly stating that profit and loss ( P & L) Is he are included only with ‘private’ leases not ‘public’. We sent him the entire Funky Pelican lease with Flagler Beach’s owned public building more than once –

    Almost thought Chair Donald O’Brien got it right when he said his first thought would be to let the lease expire on its own in 2021 but switched and said ” but that is not a reality”. WHY NOT Mr. Obrien? It sure is a reality just as much as the fact that the county has NO liability according to the lease regarding income whatsoever. No P & L – the word ‘income’ is absent from the corrupt ( my opinion) agreement from the beginning.

    How much time has the county taken of Heidi Petito over this scam upon us, who is also in charge of the Flagler County Utility at Plantation Bay that has more problems than aget 60 year old building which was already 52 years old when the first lease was signed? Did all these problems first appear when the owners decided it was time all the free help to get their hard liquor license,? Again, our county attorney does not realize that floating boat docks which can accommodate boats over 25 feet,, on the intercoastal with wide open water is an open invitation for liability once a drunk leaves ( or rolls out onto his boat) directly from the new bigger Bings with a belly full of booze and as drunk as a skunk and kills someone(s)..

    Who gets sued? Captains? we don’t even know if they have any assets! It’s the COUNTY’s property – you and me folks will pay every dime liability and set a precedent upon the future meaning of lands purchase to protect the environment. Whose environment? Not ours.

    Tell them to take a hike and please vote out every commissioner who votes to spend one dime of taxpayer money on this building and fire any staff member who dare to suggest we will face tremendous liability if we tell them where to go. I bet even Legal Zoom will agree with me – how about you my fellow taxpayer?

  8. In my neighborhood says:

    With it looking like there will be a new building on Bing’s property, let’s hope our County Commissioners will amend the lease with a higher monthly rental requirement and get enough money ahead to maintain the building. Apparently with the low rent received on the present building, there is ZERO money for repairs. Poor landlords with no common sense.

  9. ASF says:

    I propose that all those Hammock residents who were so vocally opposed to the expansion due to their concern for the preservation and conservation of that area should be made to sign waivers stating that they will personally refrain from seeking to build any additions to their own residences or even trying to obtain variances for such purposes. Fair is fair.

  10. Truth says:

    Ain’t nobody hungry for BBQ…..they hungry for money and they should all be ashamed of themselves!!!!!! Community my a&@

  11. Steve says:

    Spending way too much time on a BBQ joint IMO solve it and move on already

  12. Edith Campins says:

    The community has spoken. Other than the owners and some politicians no one want this deal. Why are they still pursuing it? Are they hoping people will forget about it?
    And why can’t they give other businesses an opportunity to bid for this? How is the fair and equitable to the area businesses?

  13. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    Best solution: Vote out any commissioner who votes to spend one cent of our money to repair anything, (other than required code violations to be cured to keep the building ‘open’) since we own the building.
    Fire any staff who scares us into thinking we will owe them lost income. The word ‘income’ is absent from the crooked lease anyway.

    Tell Captains they can walk now or walk at the end of their lease – no liability on county whatsoever. Any staff member who says otherwise should be fired.

    Flagler County’s survival does not depend on Captain’s or any other restaurant. This is all about meeting state requirements for a 150 seat minimum for a hard liquor license and nothing else. Plenty of choices exist for Captains to relocate or build anew.

    How much $ has this cost us so far in paid staff time taken asway from (more) important issues? Bill them every dime – if they don’t pay our illustrious county attorney can always try to ‘attach’ their assets but he says that’s not our business. How stupid does the county think we are?

  14. Flagler Paddler says:

    Let the lease expire and do not renew. If they are willing to pay for the new building on park property why can’t they buy the old Newcastle Marine property and build there!

  15. Concerned Citizen says:

    @ ASF

    Surely that would apply to you as well?

    One of the biggest reasons everyone is up in arms about this is the lack of due process. Our BOCC and accepted money from Captain’s BBQ to show them favor. They have the County Attorney so cowed he is afraid to act like an attorney and represent the County properly. This is already after having ridiculously low rent and violating the lease time and time again.

    No other business in this county gets such a deal. They are held accountable for leases, code enforcement actions and health department violations. Why should Captain’s be any different? I’ll answer that. Because of “campaign” contributions made to our BOCC.

    Once you accept bribes oops I meant “campaign contributions” You forget the oath you took when sworn into office. You fail to represent ALL of your constituents. Not just your special interests. You then stop doing your job. Something that would get us fired in the regular work force.

    The ONLY reason this has gotten dragged out was the fact that Captains and our BOCC got caught doing shady business. It then was thankfully made public. And now it seems Captains will still get their way because our BOCC and County Attorney are COWARDS and refuse to do the right thing.

    The right thing to do is get Captains out of the park and sever any County related business with them. Let them fend for themselves with normal rent and taxes. Stop cutting them breaks on code enforcement violations and health department issues.

    Folks once again elections are not far away. Do your part in remembering jobs not done at the next election and vote these folks out. Lets get people in there that will represent US and not special interest groups that line their pockets.

  16. O’Brien Had It Right says:

    Let the existing lease expire! Captain’s can use the next two years to find a site and build their dream restaurant without public subsidies.

  17. Can't believe it says:

    Our County attorney is doing a great job of representing the lessee on this. One would think he works for them, not the citizens. County Commissioners need to step up and get rid of him. I’m sure he could get a job with Captain’s.

  18. ASF says:

    @Concerned citizen–I don’t live in the Hammock but the area in Palm Coast that I DO live in is going through very dramatic expansion–and that expansion has had its share of controversy as well. I respect the fact that someone made room for me and I don’t expect that I can demand that time stand still for me and that nothing ever changes because I don’t want it to–now that I’ve got mine. If the people who were protesting Captain’s expansion did so on the basis of not wanting any more expansion in their backyard and because they are concerned about the conservation of the area- then they should have no problem signing a waiver that states that THEY will not seek to expand in their own self-interests themselves and encroach any further on the ecology of the area. Hypocrisy and self-righteousness too often walk hand-in-hand in this town. Too often, it’s a matter of “I got mine–F.U..” To state that there has been a lack of “due process” into this matter is ridiculous, It has been debated ad nauseum.

  19. Hammock Resident says:

    I agree with what Chairman O’Brien initially communicated. His comment received the loudest applause. Let the lease expire in 2 years. Do interim fixes to satisfy the restaurant. Let the restaurant sue if they want, and cause so much bad will … if they do that, that they will lose all their customers.
    The county should not be subsidizing and giving preferential treatment to this one business. Negotiate a lease exit without lawsuits. The restaurant can lease a property somewhere else ….not on Environmentally sensitive land … or use the $1 million dollars they have to build a restaurant on private property. If the Commissioners extend this lease, the public will not forget. I feel bad for all the other small businesses, especially restaurants, that must compete fairly in the open marketplace, that see this “sweetheart deal” and preferential treatment, for this one politically connected enterprise.

  20. Redneck Ricky says:

    Okay, so I guess Highjackers is own the chopp’in block too? Never seen so many haters in my life. You all don’t care about no Bings. Yal just taking out yuh gripes with govmt on a local business. Kinda backwards if you ask me.

  21. Doug A says:

    After sitting in the crowd this morning and watching the county attorney trying to say there is nothing we can do but let the bbq people do what ever they want was embarrassing. I thought the park belonged to the people of Flagler County but I am misinformed it is to be used by a private enterprise. In an article months ago the Funky Pelican and Highjackers pay rent and a certain amount of their profit to the county, but all the bbq people pay is $750 a month. You can’t even get a small apartment for that little. They are not in compliance with their lease as the health dept. has cited them for having more seating than is allowed. If this can’t break the lease, do what minimal repairs need to be done let the lease run out in 2 years and they can do what other business owners do either buy and build or rent a building. Our tax money should not go to subsidize a specific business.

  22. Richard says:

    Frankly, the BBQ at Captains isn’t anywhere near as good as the BBQ at Bayne’s. However, I totally agree with Sean Peckham post in that Petito has the most logical and cost effective suggestion for relocating Captains to a larger and newer building. Plus it will provide a better view of the ICW. It’s a win-win proposal that I’d bet the deed to my house that will get thrown out the door as it appears to me that the powers at be have already made up their minds and are just trying to ride this out until people forget about it.

  23. palmcoaster says:

    The green shirt taxpayers attending against the expansion of Cptn Bbq filled the commissioners meeting room. Chair O’brien brought very valid points like the total absence of their P&L to which should be added our taxpayers missing P&L for the expensive cost of subsidizing the Bbq. Unfortunately keeping the Bbq in place as is now and letting the lease expire mentioned by Obrien was not in their agenda as the whole county staff including Petito and Petito, attorney Hadeed, manager Cameron and BOCC showed not representing the taxpayers pleas but the best interest for Cptn’s. Still they let be the option 2 for the new location doing away with our heavily used pavilion closer to the intracoastal. That pavilion were years ago after we ordered take out from the recently opened Bbq and bait shop, we sat down to enjoy it! Who gave them the right to expand it to seating restaurant without letting the very taxpayers that bought that small park for preservation at a current cost of over 4.4 millions, notified about it? Just plain shenanigans like most BOCC or city wasting our taxes to benefit their local, bankers, lawyers, developers or other significant local buddies!

  24. Edith Campins says:

    @Sean peckhan
    No, Petito’s proposal does not make everyone happy. It is still not a good deal from a financial stand point. What about the liquor license on public property and the liability to the county? Who pays to maintain the building? Why is it ok to take prime waterfront space from the taxpayers and give it to a private business? Why is the county giving preferential treatment to a private business and not allowing other businesses to compete for this “deal”? What about the bigger parking lot? Let the lease expire and let them find their own property. Learn something from this fiasco.

  25. KJ says:

    I don’t understand this quote in the article:
    “Commission Chairman Don O’Brien said his instinct is to let the Captain’s lease run its course “and be done with it.” But he said that would not be realistic.”

    Why is that not the realistic and BEST option for the Comission to take? Let’s end this scam of some politically well connected investors making money off the taxpayers. The taxpayers have spoken.
    I like the wearin’ of the green, there iis a double entendre is the wearing of green by those in attendance:
    1. Protect our green space, our public park from the reckless destruction of this bad plan to expand Bing’s
    2. Protect our green bucks (our tx dollars) fromn this reckless spending insider deal

  26. 3 part breath says:

    we do yoga in flagler beach wed and sat at 10 a.m.Everybody please show up and we can all breathe together. This all will pass and yall will quickly move on to the next target.

  27. Ben Hogarth says:

    The more I look at even the original “deal” that captains BBQ was given, the more it just smells of burned public trust. I honestly don’t know how even the original lease would hold up in a court challenge.. let alone any potential new lease on existing County property. Although Captains is prepared to invest into a larger structure, this still doesn’t answer the essential “best and highest use” question with regard to the property. And this point is not even considering the concept of a fair and equitable rate for the taxpayers nor procurement requirements as also provided by law.

    The reason you don’t see most other communities providing “sweet deals” like this to private businesses is that their administrations understand the difference between lawful and unlawful – the prior Flagler administration apparently did not.

    Here are some general questions (in example) to ask as a taxpayer when trying to discern what would be a lawful and transparent process versus one that is not:

    1. Do the proposed lease terms (like rent rate) conform to those of like private leases on any other private parcel for such use?

    2. Does the proposed use conform with any property covenants, restrictions, or zoning?

    3. Has the use impacts been measured against the property and infrastructural capacity in managing such impacts (I.e. sewer and sanitation)?

    4. Was there an open public bid or proposal process that provided opportunities for other investors in a competitive manner?

    5. Will such a lease of public property inure to a private benefit?

    6. Is there a public benefit and if so, is it only incidental?

    7. Is there a campaign contribution conflict of interest between the proposed lessee and any voting commissioner of which did not so recuse themself?

    8. Does it FEEL like a “bad deal?”

    If any one of these questions is answered in a manner that does reflect lawful or best practices – IT’S a BAD deal.

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