Last Updated: 11:56 a.m.
It was not the sort of response Palm Coast government was hoping for.
Today at 2 p.m. was the initial deadline for interested parties to submit a bid to replace the Green Lion Cafe at the city-owned Palm Harbor Golf Club. The city issued a request for proposals on Aug. 24. It had not received a single bid by this morning. So it extended the bidding window to September 29 at 2 p.m., based at least on some interest shown by two parties.
“We have two that have indicated an intent to bid, but haven’t completed the submittal, that’s why we are going to extend it,” Jason DeLorenzo, the city’s chief of staff, said today. “I don’t think it’s too common for restaurants to have to do this kind of RFP.”
After the interview with DeLorenzo, approaching noon, one party did file a bid, which was under review by procurement officials for qualification. (The article’s initial headline was: “Not One Bid Filed By Deadline for Green Lion Restaurant Replacement, so City Extends Window,” referring to today’s deadline, which by then had already been extended to Sept. 29.)
The lack of an enthusiastic response makes two things clear: first, claims constantly repeated on social media and in comments to previous articles about the Green Lion debacle that the city had a secret, interested bidder lined up to take over are false. Second, the city may have a harder time replacing the Green Lion than the council’s confidence assumed, especially in an economic climate flashing many warning signs of recession, assuming the economy isn’t already in recession (by traditional measures of two successive quarters of negative economic growth, it is, though other indicators, such as employment, consumer spending and construction permitting still point to a robust economy).
The city is not releasing the names of the interested parties. By law, it does not have to disclose bidders’ names until either the city announces an intent to award a bid or until 30 days after the bids are opened, whichever comes first. But the Green Lion does not appear to be among the interested parties: bidding documents indicate what companies or parties have downloaded them, and the Green Lion is not among them. Still, savvy bidders also know they can fabricate a proxy to download documents, so their identity is not publicly revealed. Some have done just that.
Those bidding documents include one clear interest from a local restaurant: Thai and I, the Bunnell restaurant that Bounseng Lodbansa of Palm Coast opened earlier this year at 603 North State Street, or U.S. 1, at the location of the old State Street Diner.
Several entities that have downloaded documents are procurement agencies that then re-disseminate the request for proposal. Other entities that have downloaded documents include Francis McSweeney’s McSweeney Investments of Orange Park, an entity that first registered with the state Division of Corporations in July. Another is Connecticut-based Debo Food Services, a company that contracts with vendors who sell food in office buildings, on college campuses, in transportation hubs and the like. Golf Automation, which manages golf courses, also acquired documents.
On Aug. 25 and Sept. 12, the city issued a pair of amendments to the RFP, one of them disclosing pictures of the property, the other answering five questions that had been posed by interested parties.
The second addendum‘s five questions, based on their specificity, suggest at least some serious intent to bid. A potential bidder is asking whether beverage cart attendants may be used, which would enable the operator to sell drinks to people playing golf, using a cart. (“Yes,” the city responded, “but you will need to supply the cart as well.”) Kemper Sports, which managed the golf course for the city until 2017, had operated just such a cart, and the original agreement with the Green Lion gave it that opportunity, which the Green Lion opted not to exercise. When Kemper operated the cart, it used a city vehicle. That vehicle has since been discarded. When the city bought new golf carts, it did not guy a beverage cart, leaving it to a potential bidder tj procure it.
Another question wondered about the possibility of extending the five-year lease’s additional options to a total of 20 years (“The city will consider terms for additional extensions as part of the final lease negotiation”), and two identical questions related to health department records.
Potential bidders may yet ask questions, with the deadline for those questions now pushed back to Sept. 22.
DeLorenzo was involved in negotiations with Green Lion management for over a year to rewrite their lease, and came close to agreement on two occasions. The city Council both times derailed the tentative agreement, making demands that neither the Green Lion was willing to concede nor the city administration had made part of the tentative lease. After months of rollercoaster negotiations, including open negotiations between the Green Lion and the council, the council issued the restaurant an ultimatum, which the Green Lion let pass, indicating it was likely no longer interested in continuing a relationship with the city.
The open proposal seeks a bidder willing to pay $3,000 a month in rent and utilities, including water. That’s up from the $600 a month the Green Lion had been paying, though the city and the restaurant had come close to increasing that manyfold before the agreement was derailed.
The $3,000 a month rent would be similar to what the Funky Pelican in Flagler Beach paid the city for rent at what used to be the Pier Restaurant (the city owns the pier and the restaurant property), but only in the first two years of that lease, back in 2011 and 2012. The lease included a 3 percent annual increase, bringing current rent to just under $4,000, and it includes a profit-sharing clause: the Funky Pelican is required to pay the city 3 percent of all gross sales in excess of $1 million a year. None of those provisions are part of the Palm Harbor Golf Club restaurant’s lease.
RFP-PR-22-74 Concession Lease Agreement Palm Harbor Golf Course Proposal Manual