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Finally, Flagler Beach Agrees to Long-Term Pier Restaurant Deal With River Grille Owner

| June 16, 2011

Flagler Beach's Pier Restaurant has a new owner, and likely fresher, better-spelled menus ahead. (© FlaglerLive)

The Pier Restaurant in Flagler Beach will have a new owner.

Restaurants switching ownership isn’t usually news. This one is, because the Pier Restaurant is owned by the city of Flagler Beach, it is an iconic property that helps defines the city’s image, and the current lease holder, Kaitlin Meyer, lost interest in keeping her lease—which was due to run out in 2012—years ago. It showed: the restaurant has been more of a dive than a dining experience of late. A report the city commissioned in October said as much. “This icon location today does not promote the city the way she deserves,” the report stated. “This is the flagship and identity of Flagler Beach.” Instead, the report concluded, the property was dragging down the city’s reputation.

Raymond Barshay, owner of River Grille on the Tomoka in Ormond Beach and Crabby Joe’s in Daytona Beach, began negotiating with Meyer last year. But he could not simply assume her lease. He had to go through the Flagler Beach City Commission—and do so in public. The process took a year, innumerable meetings, wrangles and even a little brinkmanship: it appeared on a few occasions as if Barshay, who was willing to invest several hundred thousand dollars into the property to spruce it up and turn it into a American cuisine destination.

Thursday afternoon, Barshay and the city commission finally agreed to a long-term lease: 10 years, with three five-year renewals. Barshay will pay $3,000 in rent, with built-in rent increases beginning in the third year and every year after that. The city would get 2 percent of gross sales on sales above $1 million. There was a lot of haggling over an outdoors deck, which Barshay wants: who would build it, when, at what cost. In the end, Barshay agreed to secure the permits for it all, including a critical permit from the Division of Environmental Protection (which is still questionable).

Should something not work out, either side can opt out of the least by Sept. 1, with 30 days’ notice. That’s the so-called “drop-dead” date for either side. Beyond it, both sides are committed.

“It’s not just a drop-dead date for us, it’s a hammer,” Drews Smith, the city’s attorney, said. “The down side that’s being expressed is just the concern that you don’t get the deck, you lose interest in the property, you walk away, and say, go ahead and sue me, which is a position Commissioner [Steve] Settle is trying to avoid.”

“Yeah, I guess, that can happen any time,” Barshay said. “I don’t know, that’s not a kind of business plan that I’ve set up, but anyway. I don’t know how to respond to that.” He added: “By Sept. 1, you would have me or you would be doing another RFP [a request for proposal] before the end of the current lease.”

That’s what the commission is trying to avoid: there’s not a long line of interested restaurateurs, though some Flagler Beach-based restaurant owners were resentful of the city not giving them better opportunities to vie for the property.

The bait and tackle shop at the pier, which was part of the original lease, has been severed from it. The city will keep total ownership of the shop and try to make a go of it there. And there is no provision in the document to alter the lease in the future. But both sides can amend the agreement whenever they want.

Settle specified that he wasn’t certain suing would be the best approach. He predicted that 25 years from now, the people of the future will look back on this agreement and say “we did a good job.” But he added: “I would have one reservation, and I really regret not putting this out for RFP. My only regret is that I’m not completely certain we couldn’t have done better, but I thank Mr. Barshay for working for us and I think we did a pretty good job.”

City commissioner Marshall Shupe, speaking from written remarks, spoke of the degraded conditions of the restaurant as less than an iconic location. “Our city needs to have this restaurant rebuilt and opened ASAP. Now is not the time after all these years and all the negotiations to start over.” Commissioner Kim Carney thanked the previous commission for “setting this up” and endorsed the new plan.

“I really feel we should have gotten more money out of you, Ray,” Commission Chairman John Feind said, “ but the commission decided not to. So we’ll move on.”

“I look forward to the opportunity, and yeah, we’ll be working together. It’s a city project as much as it’s something for me. We’ll have to be partners in that place over there. I think it can be a really neat spot and I look forward to jumping into action and really getting going. A friend of mine lives in Boston, she was saying well, it sounds like it’s getting there, Barshay, and I said yeah, the scary part is, once that happens now I have to actually go do it.”

Commissioner Jane Mealy motioned to approve the lease, and the commission approved it 4-1, with Feind in dissent, in one of its shortest special meetings on record.

“We’re done, Ray,” Feind then said. “I’m glad you’re starting to work on Monday, that’s for sure. Finally. It’s been a long process.”

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10 Responses for “Finally, Flagler Beach Agrees to Long-Term Pier Restaurant Deal With River Grille Owner”

  1. John Smith says:

    BYE, BYE Billy boy your out of here.

  2. Dee says:

    We are so excited about this. Now, where do we park?

  3. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Tying up the city’s major asset for 25 years. Yeah, that’s a good idea.

  4. beta says:

    If the city commision was really concerned about the image the current restaurant conveys, they wouldn’t have put Barshay through the ringer, and would help with the deck permits, and property for parking. Little people trying to throw their wieght around. and still no bait shop open at the iconic pier? I could open and run that place with my eyes closed.

  5. curious says:

    Congratulations! I think that all the people who were involved in this from the start, Mr. Murphy, Ms Miller, Ms Kania and the previous Commission should be thanked for the vision and work they did to make this happen.

    Welcome Mr. Barshay!

  6. Psychic Cat says:

    I am so pleased that this is finally resolved. There is one little problem though. The River Grille is SO successful it has two large parking lots. Where are all these people going to park?

  7. SAW says:

    The owner of the vacant lot opposite the pier just hit the $$ lotto jackpot $$ very nice. That makes two winners, and one loser.

  8. Hope says:

    It seems alittle late for Flagler beach to want to climb into the 21rst century. The peer restaurant is very unattractive and doesn’t get my appetite going. Keeping the entire town looking like 1950 I think is a failed strategy. It hurts housing since all of the businesses look tattered. All I see is bikers, homeless people. I think A1A should be beautiful and well kept. It is much prettier in volushia and st johns counties. I can’t tell you how many people I know that are moving away. Which is sad because they can’t find good restaurants or upscale services. The people who can move are the same people who have money to spend but will spend it somewhere else in Florida.

  9. James K. Densmore Parkland Int. Realty says:

    Although this process took much longer than many of the public think it should have, I must CONGRATULATE all involved as to the due-diligence & eventual outcome. I truly believe the Commission was always looking-out for the best interests of your beautiful community and it’s citizens. I Thank them for the opportunity to have been part of their team in my participation of being the city’s consultant. You have all made what I consider a decision that will benefit all parties concerned and elevate The Pier back to her prominence.
    James K. Densmore
    Parkland International Realty Inc.
    Central Florida

  10. John Smith says:

    Well hope, for someone with such a UPPER CLASS tone in your writing PIER is NOT PEER.
    So you think driving down to Daytona along the dunes NOT seeing the ocean or driving UP to St Augustine along the dunes OUT of the city limits NOT seeing the ocean is prettier shows what a blind fold you have on your upper class head.
    Let me guess you drive a Mercedes or a Cady or maybe a Lexas to make these wonderful drives.
    I would rather sit down and have a sandwhich or a drink with a biker or even find one of our two homeless people we have in town than ever thinking of getting you a glass of water to quench your thirst. You make me sick.
    If you know all of these people that are moving maybe you need to MOVE YOUR SORRY UPPITY ASS right along with them I am sure that the city of Flagler Beach can and will survive WITHOUT your MONEY.
    You may want to tilt your head forward so you do not drown from the rain.

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