When the Palm Coast City Council last touched on its intentions with the Green Lion restaurant at Palm Harbor Golf Club last week it was a final, take-it-or-leave-it decision: sign the new lease, pay roughly $3,000 a month, or the lease is over–Green Lion would have six months to clear out–and Palm Coast seeks a new vendor. The deadline is Friday.
The meeting was not friendly. The council limited Chris Marlow, who runs the restaurant, and Tony Marlow, who owns it, to three minutes, as if they were like any other member of the public rather than the principals of an agenda item that has been a focus of city business for months. That triggered them both to lash out from the podium or near the back of the room, including sharply hostile words from Tony against city staff and the council. The impression they left behind as they left the room was that there was nothing much left to salvage as far as they were concerned.
On Tuesday, however, the Green Lion’s attorney suggested in a three-page letter to city council members, the city manager and the city attorney, that they still very much want to be in the game–or the ring, as the case may be: punches are still not being pulled, but by still punching, they’re still dealing, or hoping to.
They may be disappointed: last week’s unanimous vote by the council is as immutable as Friday’s deadline.
Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin and Chris Marlow had been scheduled for a joint radio appearance on a WNDB talk show Friday, which could have provoked uncomfortable if not inappropriate circumstances, placing Alfin in a situation where the conversation could have been steered toward on-the-spot negotiations. Alfin has now ruled that out. He said he had not had a chance to thoroughly review the letter with the city attorney and was booked until Friday, so would not have that chance. “It would be prudent for me to postpone that interview,” he said.
Ferguson’s letter is a textbook case of good-cop, bad-cop lawyering all in one: he is proposing a compromise on behalf of his clients–and threatening to sue if the city follows through with its own pledge to sever the lease agreement. “Please note,” Ferguson writes in bold letters, “that the Green Lion reserves any and all rights to legally challenge the City’s attempt to terminate the Existing Contract” using a provision he specifies in the contract currently in effect.
Ferguson is referring to the contract’s section 6.C. which states that either the city or the Green Lion may terminate the agreement with 180 days’ notice. The city would have to then reimburse the Green Lion the previous 12 months’ rent, or $7,200, if it terminated. Ferguson calls it a provision “that the city admits was intended only if the City had to close the golf course.”
That may be the case. But it’s not in the contract. The wording allowing the city to terminate is. To any textualist judge–as Flagler County’s judges tend to be, especially Circuit Judge Terence Perkins, who would likely judge the issue if it ended on his docket–that’s where it would end: with the words in the contract.
So the threat may just be a bluff unlikely to sit well with the council. Or, borrowing a page from Captain’s BBQ ongoing lawsuit against the county, it would be an attempt to impress upon the city that it would face a lawsuit with attendant costs that would dwarf whatever possible extra few thousand dollars the city is seeking to extract from the restaurant with its latest proposal–which had not even been the administration’s agreed-upon proposal.
The council added an extra $1,000-a-month cost for the Green Lion after deciding that it should share the water and sewer bill at the trailer the restaurant shares with the city. The city does not get billed, but it estimates water and sewer costs at roughly $24,000 a year.
As negotiated between the Green Lion and the city–Development Director Jason DeLorenzo is the lead negotiator–at least until the Green Lion stopped negotiating two to three weeks before the last council meeting, the Green Lion would have paid the city nearly $24,000 in annual rent starting in September, plus electricity, propane, internet and phone lines. Rent would then increase annually by 3 percent. The Green Lion was challenging the electricity portion of those costs before last week’s meeting. But it had not expected that the council would add the $1,000-a-month water and sewer charge on top of them, raising the annual cost to $34,000–or $43,000, including electricity costs, estimated to be $9,000 a year.
In previous negotiations the city council had been willing to wait two years before its arrangement with the Green Lion allowed the city to break even. Last week’s amendment has the city making a profit from the start, albeit a modest one of less than $200.
In the good-cop portion of Ferguson’s letter, he says the Green Lion is willing to enable just that: immediate profitability of over $3,000 next year, according to his calculations. The restaurant would pay $25,184 in annual rent the first year, pay for internet, phone and propane. But that would be it. The city would continue to pay for electricity, water, sewer and garbage pick-up.
In sum, a difference of $18,000 between the two sides’ proposals, or $1,500 a month, based on agreement the city council approved last week and the agreement the restaurant is willing to sign on to.
That’s setting aside another point of contention Ferguson stresses: that the city arbitrarily altered a “concession” agreement into a lease agreement. “A concessionaire does not pay electricity, propane, water, for [point of sale] systems, property tax, etc.,” he writes. (There is a pending case in court that could open the way for property appraisers to remove a city’s tax exemption on city owned properties leased to private entities, if those entities draw a profit from their operation. But the outcome of that case is unlikely to change the status quo.)
In that regard, Ferguson’s argument is on stronger ground, if the case went to court: the 2017 agreement was a “concession agreement.” Somewhere along the way, the city changed it to a “lease concession agreement.” A textualist judge would not let that slip by without closer examination, especially since the Green Lion does not agree with the change. (But by agreeing to pay at least some of the items not usually included in a concession agreement, it opens the door to weakening its own case: if propane, why not water and sewer?) The 2017 request for proposal, however, referred to the arrangement as a “lease agreement,” Alfin said, putting the city on stronger ground. Again: that’s not what the contract wording says.
The Ferguson letter includes a full proposed amendment to the existing agreement, underscoring the Green Lion’s continuing position that the city cannot arbitrarily change the agreement, call it a lease, or even impose some of the new costs it is imposing.
Ferguson’s letter acknowledges, without naming the Marlows, that “the public frustration that was exhibited could have been tempered,” but he said “it’s hard to blame them when 5 years of their sole risk and effort are in jeopardy. If my client would have been provided the simple decency of speaking without time limits last Tuesday, he would have discussed” the issues outlined in the letter “so that the Council could have made an informed decision.”
The city, Ferguson argues, is disregarding its own intention to charge the fair market value estimated by Cornelia Manfre, the commercial Realtor it had hired to arrive at such an estimate. Instead of paying $9 to $10 a square foot, the restaurant, Ferguson wrote, would have to pay the equivalent of $17.64 a square foot, or “86 percent over fair market value.”
“The City is getting more than what it wanted,” Ferguson wrote. “There is no justification for changing from a concession to a lease agreement. There is no need to hide other changes to the relationship in a new agreement. There is an Existing Contract.”
Alfin on Wednesday said the council has voted, the deadline was set. He was especially soured by the way the Marlows had treated city staff “repeatedly” or by a social media campaign that he says is mischaracterizing the issue and portraying the city as seeking to throw out the Green Lion, “which is absolutely false.” The mayor said and he was not going to let a “massive social media campaign” decide city policy. (The Green Lion has been directing supporters to mail their thoughts to city council members. Emails have poured in by the dozens, but so have emails asking the city not to extend further subsidies, Alfin said.)
But setting that aside, he said, the process does not allow negotiations at this point. “There was a motion, there was a vote, a unanimous vote, and the staff and the city attorney were given direction and there can be no deviation from that direction, certainly not before another public meeting,” Alfin said. “The mechanism or the tool doesn’t need to exist and does not exist. That’s the way the the charter is set up. So that start button was pressed. The process or the procedure were ignited and launched at the conclusion of the vote at the last city business meeting.”
A city spokesperson said the motion did not specify when the Friday deadline would run out–end of business on Friday, or midnight. The city is taking the position that if the Green Lion were to send in the agreement with its signature by midnight, the city would still accept it. But no later.
Monday is a holiday, so no termination letter will be issued to the Green Lion that day. The council meets again next Tuesday at 6 p.m., by which time such a letter presumably would have been issued. But could a city council member still intervene and seek consensus for a different direction at that meeting? Yes. “A city council member, under member comments at the end of the meeting,” Alfin said, could “say say, Hey, I think we should hold off, do a cooling off period or something like that. That’s possible.” But Alfin concluded: “I do not believe that will happen. Ninety-nine percent.”
The Green Lion’s Latest proposal:Letter and Amendment to Mayor and Councilmembers
What a shame that a successful business such as the GREEN LION has to deal with such incompetent, egotistical Pompas souls such as they are. I hope they realize the re-election “dreams ” they may hold are now double bogeys.
what a shame
David Schaefer says
Vote accordingly. Remember Mullins was a participant in the January 6th insurrection, te attack on our way of living, our democracy.
100% correct. Incometent, hard a$$es!
Lynn Perry says
Ok. Palm Coast city council……
Who stands to gain what from this decision to oust the Green Lion?
Do any of you have the decency to be honest? ……..
Time will tell, but, also, when the dust settles, on this decision. You will be called to explain why you made these choices. This makes no sense.
Mary Ann says
I encourage all readers to read the entire letter that was sent from The Marlow’s law firm and not just the snippet Flagler Live chose to post and create this media hype.
These are the facts. These 4 stupid, egotistical nobodies are extorting this wonderful family and their business. For what reason? What is the real reason behind this absolute foolishness?
What is the hidden agenda? These people are corrupt.
Green Lion needs to pay the increase and move on with life. Increase the meal prices, they have a strong enough following that their supporters will pay. The crazy yelling and screaming by the restaurant owners was poorly thought out and burned any bridge that still existed. They look like a wacky bunch and seemingly went about this whole approach the wrong way. A deal could have been reached much sooner and with much less collateral damage.
I like the Green Lion and the location. But at the end of the day, the owners signed a contract they knew could change at any time within 6 months notice, so…
I don’t think anything as good as the Green Lion would replace it, either. There’s enough blame to go around for all parties, I suspect.
Ed Danko says
We are not asking thr z green Lion to pay the water bill for the entire golf course, that is misinformation they are putting out there. We are only asking them to pay half of the water bill in the building that they share with the pro golf shop. We are not trying to put them out of business. Please know that our amazing city staff did negotiate in good faith and the green lion had plenty of opportunity to present their side before our last council meeting, but instead they chose to act in an extremely rude and obnoxious manner at Council. That was a mistake on their part and certainly no way to conduct negotiations. Again, not trying to end their business, but let me be clear, I am here to protect taxpayers, I am not here to hand out freebies to a business or subsidize someone’s lunch or dinner. Taxpayers like you have suffered enough with Biden-inflation and gas prices already this year. The Green Lion has a fair offer in front of them and they have until this Friday to accept it. I sincerely hope they decide to stay in business!
The dude says
Joe’s that boycott going there Ed???
Never mind, we can see how it’s going with our own eyes. Yet another lie.
Anyway, why wouldn’t the city want to meter the water and electricity separately to the course and restaurant? Seems like the simplest and best solution. Then nobody’s paying “their fair share” based on estimates handed down by an untrustworthy (at best) landlord?
I believe the Green Lion was allowed three minutes to speak.
Randy Bentwick says
This situation and your claim of protecting taxpayers is totally typical of how you maga idiots do things. After voting to give yourself a raise – you then turn around and initiate an unprovoked attack on a thriving business.
I would ask you not to insult our intelligence by claiming to be some sort of champion for the taxpayers – but your base doesn’t have any intelligence to insult.
And if anybody would know “rude and obnoxious” behavior – it’s you.
You were doing just fine until you said “Biden-inflation”, couldn’t help yourself eh?
Why not authorize the City workers to put in three water meters? One for the restaurant; another for the shared bathrooms, and a third for the outside spigots. Then let everyone operate for a year and see where the water is going? That’s what would be logical. That’s what would be fair. Same for the electric meter.
And while you are at it how about calling this what it is; a concession and not a lease. Palm Coast owns the building and the property that it sits on. If the Green Lion were to leave tomorrow would they be able to remove fixtures? Would they take the all the kitchen appliances and the bar?
I’m just an investor looking to Palm Coast right now….
A fair deal?.
They couldn’t give the place away before the green line took over. The green line made it what it is today.. it was a half broken down trailer and nobody wanted it..
Now that they made it lucrative the city wants to squeeze them. Sad..
They should get a good deal because if it wasn’t for them they still would be looking for someone to give it to..
Is this the business proposals Palm Coast wants to give for million dollar investors to come in??
They’re setting a very bad precedent for business people to spend in Palm Coast..
Getting the feeling a good deal in the beginning and then they will squeeze you dry afterwards …
To me that is very bad business etiquette for inviting million dollar investors to come into this county!
The dude says
I too WAS looking to invest in the county. I sold off a number of rentals before moving down and needed to put that $$$ somewhere before the IRS came looking for it.
After we moved down here and bought a house I started looking around for property to invest in. Then I started to realize that Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, and Flagler County will all allow one to purchase real estate, and will gladly tax the freaking hell out you for owning that real estate. But they won’t really allow you to use that real estate how you see fit. They want to dictate to you exactly what you can and cannot do with it.
So say a small investor wanted to build a gun club, a sports center with indoor courts, or really anything that isn’t a pizza joint or a dollar store… that’s a hard “no” from PC, and Flagler.
Now… if you’re a builder, and you want to build 800 houses on 80 acres… they’ll fall all over themselves to get that approved, they’ll even cut you a deal on impact fees.
Until this area, in the “freedom” state allows folks to invest as they see fit, it will never change.
There won’t be meaningful jobs at businesses that attract skilled and highly paid workers. It will just continue to be a place full of shitty, angry old retirees, with way too many pizza joints and surrounded by run down areas where the sketchy folks who service the olds everyday lives come from.
5 million for a splash park not being used.
9 dollars a month increase for garbage collection.
A restaurant that serves food good food being run out of business.
Raises for the council that were clearly not wanted by the citizens.
Apartments being built everywhere smaller lot sizes being approved.
Home builders destroying our neighborhoods.
How much is going to the sheriffs office this year for the general. He needs some more deputies sitting around under the trees.
Randy Bentwick says
It’s only a matter of time until the real reason for the city’s decision shows up – Danko and/or DeLorenzo has a deal with somebody to take over the space and they need the Lion gone.
To all the people of Palm Coast who are unhappy about this – get out and vote these jerks out. If you don’t, things will only get worse.
If I were the Marlows, I would have a very hard time trying to do business with these people. How sad and blatantly obvious the shenanigans of the Palm Coast City Council! They should be ashamed of themselves- putting obvious greed over hard working, very successful business owners. Hopefully a resolution that will be acceptable to all, but given the current state of the leadership of Palm Coast? I don’t see that happening. Very sad (and obvious) indeed.
Jane E K says
They’ve got another business ready to go in there. Mark my words!
Green Lion you have the support of most PC taxpayers go for it an sue the City. They play dirty politics at the helm of the Mayor that gave himself a raise not even in office for six months against taxpayers disagreeing with it. He is out for himself and is a corrupt Republican and please remember this next time you vote. He needs to be gone.
Mark Howard says
It’s super easy to hate the gub’ment, but from what I see and hear our elected officials are doing exactly what we should expect of them, and particularly of what would be expected of an elected conservative majority. Everything within the four corners of the contract are all that matter. All else is just noise.
This is business and business with the government. It looks as if the Marlows went to Trump University and are attempting to create a social wedge in order to drive the narrative and get more handouts and freebies. It didn’t work. It shouldn’t work. Inflation is at an all time high. Real estate and rents are at an all time high with double digit annual appreciations. Da’ hell excludes the Marlows from all of that? Jobs, jobs, what about the jobs you say? Well, employment is also at an all time high. Wages are at an all time high. Those people with those jobs will simply go elsewhere, and likely get paid more. We’re in a seller’s market. We’re in an employee’s market. That’s the reality right now folks. The Marlows own what looks like millions of dollars of properties in the area for which you can be certain they’ve borrowed against and enjoyed the aforementioned appreciations of such. So enough with the handouts. Make them pay retail like everyone else. If they want love and admiration from the public, then run a non-profit or food bank. Otherwise they’re just capitalistic business people like all of the other business people in this city and country.
So yeah, the attorneys representing The Green Lion are in major backtrack mode. They made a fubar. A miscalculation. At the end of the day The Green Lion would still be well ahead of the competition around town when it comes to operating costs. I commend the council for not caving to their nonsense and following the rules they agreed to.
How’s the ordinance reconsideration and charter amendment petitions coming along? Still need a few more signatures?
Just me, but with $ 100K that was reported as an investment in the building, can the GL walk away from the location. Only they know what the P&L is for the GL as a restaurant. There may not be enough profit motive to take on the new lease terms/arrangement. If the city has nothing to replace it with, looks like they’re ruining the local economy for this. Governments are good at that, Just look at Biden’s inflation. For some reason, coming out of a pandemic, everything became worth 2-2.5 times what it was and all that happened was 10 months ticked off the clock. The one’s that add no value or do the work decided to gouge. Wonder how many council persons patronize the Green Lion ? I can think of at least 2 restaurants they wouldn’t be welcome at. Would anyone order a meal from the place after extorting a new agreement like this ? :-0
There are usually deadlines and ultimatums when negotiations cannot be reached. But I would encourage BOTH sides to take it down a notch, re-engage in good faith and come to an amicable agreement that keeps this wonderful and popular restaurant in business at the city owned golf course. There are real people’s jobs at stake here, not just the Marlow family business. I hope the city remembers the packed to the rafters council meeting showing such a strong support for this local business. When was there such a showing in support of the council? I suspect never. So, having said that, it is time to reach an agreement that gives and takes from both sides in order to resolve this stalemate and keep the restaurant in business for all of us locals who LOVE to eat there.
Chris Conklin says
The city of palm coast sucks. Very simple. The mayor n council are punishing a young family for working hard and being successful. Shame on you. You all suck and I pray your voted out. I wish I could vote but thank God I live in Flagler beach
Independence Day says
Now look here lad, let’s not throw stones while we live in glass houses. Flagler Beach has its own issues. Let me just say ‘4th of July’
A total botch job. Now that is a circus.
A Dry Golf Course 😂 says
Name one successful golf course anywhere in the USA that does not have a good restaurant or a BAR !
There is another motive behind this BS. If the city can’t make this right with the Green Lion, I will never eat or golf there again.
And I pay Palm Coast taxes for that course. What’s gonna happen now that City Council shit all over the wonderful bar, restaurant, and staff ? You don’t think those 30 people you are putting out of work have families, children, single moms working 2 jobs?
Those people will not vote for you clowns, nor will their friends and families.
And just like that, you will lose the next time you are up for re-election
What did we expect. Total incompetence when you hire a turtle biologist with zero credentials or management experience to run palm coast. We’re back to the days where employees rule the roost and pad their pockets and nothing of value will happen at the city for the citizens.
celia pugliese says
Is very sad that a business that started with a large investment and endure the “No Sufficient Income” for few years but stayed now when is the time that success was achieved while also helping the Palm Harbor Golf Course success is being theraten with accept what coucil, mayor and administrators impose on you or boot and the business have to hire attorney to defend itself. Same with us residents, Protect Palm Coast group had to hire attorney Brent Spain to successfully prevent a cell tower location on the golf course next to their homes and now city malicioulsly is proposing the same cell tower in a small city (us public) utility sewer lift station lot on narrow Club House Drive in violation of our land use original master plan that needs an special exception intended to be granted to itself or third party Diamond Cell Towers both for profit for themselves” disguisde as safety for best communication for Fire and Law Enforcement, while undermining the value of our homes less than 1,000 ft from the 150ft tower and our safety in hurricane prone area with a tower that if toppled over by hurricane will do it in that small lot “sewer lift station that serves our toilets” in the ground. Also hurricane winds can disloge the receptive equipment on top of it and go thru our windows or kill someone driving narrow Club House Drive . NO, to special exceptions to our residential zoning master plan…how many times we have to beg for it? Why our elected officials force the residents to have to hire lawyers to defend our quality of life or safety? Why other than locating the tower in Linear Park away from homes they want to stick it on top of our homes in Club House Drive being a threat to our lives and value of our homes? Why Council, Mayor and administrators gave the Diamond Tower rep all the time to present his case against us but only 3 minutes to the Marlow family to present thier Green Lion case? That speaks horrible of our city elected one’s. Also Councilman Danko you are not defending the interest of the taxpayers residents you are working to erode our quality of life and safety…regarding the Green Lion and the proposed cell tower on top of our homes in Club House Drive and you do it insulting in writting the very constituents that sat you in the Palm Coast Government. Lets see what if any innuendo will be directed at me now for this post.
Laura H says
The arrogance of the council thinking “anyone” can duplicate the business success of another is abhorrent. That place was a revolving door dump for years until the Marlows took it over and rent was reflective of city desperation to get someone in that space. Because GL happened to be successful the council wants to profit more?!? The council members themselves chose to dine at Metro Diner & Starbucks/Panera (last mayor’s favorite spot) to even get over & patronized the space while local family’s & residents struggled to make it happen.
Interestingly, the space is not metered. I am in the business nearby with a seating capacity much larger than GL My water/sewer is about $150/month & electric about $250/mo (in August) and I have majority of electrical equipment vs propane. These City estimate of unmetered utilities used by GL is grossly disproportionate and another attempt at exhortation.
The city can’t admit they made a (another) real estate blunder by buying the crappy golf course in the first place and now want to capitalize on the inspiring success of hardworking locals who made it a destination.
No smart private investor will bite on that space again or any future “concession offers” by the city after all this, er, transparency.
M. Talley says
Interesting who the city “hired”as the commercial real estate assessor. I can’t vote for any incumbents. What a shite show Palm Coast government has become. Embarrassing and incompetent.
It’s time to stop government take over of family businesses. Our nation is at the mercy of poor government. All golfers stop going to Palm Harbor. Let another golf course go under. The city council has played this game before and lost. They didn’t learn the time. Let the people speak. Election time is coming, put them all out of a job. They are supposed to be working for us, not the other way.