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Great Ocean View, Fun Pier, 5,000 Landlords. $3,329/mo. (Big Chains Need Not Apply)

| April 23, 2010

Pier Restaurant Flagler Beach

Looking for takers. (© FlaglerLive)

When he looks at Flagler Beach’s Pier Restaurant, Raymond Barshay has a dream. And $500,000 to invest. He wants to “bring a vision and personality to life that marries the history of Flagler Beach with the casual feel of a charming coastal community,” and do so in a casual-dining atmosphere of Southern cooking unafraid to flirt with mouth-watering favorites “from New England, New Orleans, The Islands, Italy” and other regions worth their delectables.

Kaitlin Meyer, the current lease-holder on the Pier Restaurant, likes what she’s hearing. She wants to do business with Barshay, who owns a few restaurants in Ormond Beach and elsewhere. Meyer is urgently interested: she wants to bail on her 20-year lease, which has two years left. And the two had “an ironclad deal” enabling Barshay to take over the lease now, in the words of outgoing Flagler Beach City Manager Bernie Murphy.
One problem: Meyer and Barshay may be two restaurateurs in private business, but they’re negotiating over public property. They don’t have the final say over who gets to run the Pier Restaurant. Flagler Beach owns the place, along with the bait shop next door. It leases both. The restaurant lease is up in 2012.

Since hearing of Barshay’s interest in the restaurant late last year, the commission has been uncertain over how to proceed next. Granting Barshay’s request to take over the lease might look like it was enabling a “sweetheart deal” (in Commissioner Ron Vath’s words). Getting in the way of Barshay and Meyer might look like getting in the way of two private businesses, and look anti-business, worried Commission Chairman John Feind.

Three months, three meetings and a 35-page “white paper” into the debate, the commission on Thursday finally agreed to advertise the availability of the restaurant for lease for the next 20 years. The ad is not soliciting proposals but merely testing the market for interest in the restaurant. The ad won’t appear in much of a market, either, at least in print: it would be sent to newspapers in Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville. Daytona Beach wasn’t mentioned. Commissioners sound uninterested in having a major chain run the place.

Before that decision was made, Barshay made one final pitch to get a crack at the property now. He got plenty of help from Feind, as he has in previous meetings. “I’m a little taken aback,” the chairman said. “We’re being very negative toward business, toward the owner who has an opportunity to sell a business that she feels she has an opportunity to get out of. She is a local businessman, and we’re getting in the middle of that.”

Other commissioners wouldn’t bite. “This is city property being paid for by the tax payers of Flagler Beach,” Jane Mealy said. “So I do think we do have the right to interfere in what happens with this business.”

Commissioner Steve Settle said it was a matter of getting some competition going before settling on the next lease-holder. Whether the commission will get that competition in the current bleak market, and by limiting its search to Florida–where the recession is hitting harder than anywhere but California–is another matter.

The restaurant, its various owners and the commission share a history as storied as it’s been fiery. The restaurant burned down in June 1981 (not, Flagler Beach Fire Chief Rob Creal said at the time, from arson). An oil fire started it and spread quickly. The tackle shop next door and the pier were not damaged. At the time, Peers Inc., owned by Jeff Seale, held the lease to the restaurant. Against the objection of one commissioner (Dominic Savino), the Flagler Beach Commission voted to suspend Seale’s rent payments until he could operate a restaurant again. “You’re fighting a dead dog over there,” Savino told Seale.

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5 Responses for “Great Ocean View, Fun Pier, 5,000 Landlords. $3,329/mo. (Big Chains Need Not Apply)”

  1. Carmine Pantuso says:

    I believe Mrs. Meyers has every right to sell her business. The problem is that the new owner wants a longer lease so he can make improvements. That is not unreasonable. Before that happens the City of Flagler Beach need’s to remove the bait shop, bathrooms, outside vending machines and the (responsabilty of collecting tickets to enter the pier) from the current lease. Then get a market evaluation of what restaurants are renting for in our area based on the square footage this will allow Flagler Beach to get fair market value for their property. The writer of this comment is a Realtor with Watson Realty Corp.

  2. Jamie Abbott says:

    Removing the Bait shop is redicules, Its A FISHING pier.!

  3. To the realtor with Watson: Because you are a realtor, does NOT mean that you understand business. The bait shop is a separate business that supports the guys family. It is (I believe) a separate business with a separate lease with the city. One has nothing to do with the other except proximity. Not to mention that it IS a fishing pier and for that you need BAIT, DUH!

    The city of Flagler Beach is a GREEDY municipality, that wants to get their hands deeper into the pocket of the business owners there. I know, I am one. If a particular business owner is doing well, they want a cut, I equate them more to the mafia than to a municipality that gets their money from taxes, and other fee based services.

    If they would concentrate on making the city a more enjoyable place (this can be done with the overall attitude of the city employees, and simple cost effective or free improvements) not only would you get more visitors, but you would also get more businesses that would want to move there.

    I will be moving my business away from Flagler Beach to Bunnell, where the city appreciates the businesses, and their fees are not ridiculous ($70 per month for trash service for 1 trash can a week, that most of the time they do not pick up on a regular basis, until I call them and complain).

    Mr. Realtor, you really need to get your head out of the clouds and get a clue, an existing business has every right to sell their business assets (including a good lease if they have one) to a new owner that will improve the facility and make a better business that will support the area and provide jobs. The city should extend the lease as an incentive to help the business owner sell and as a good will gesture to the new owner who is willing to take a “risk” on buying a business in this dim economy. radio. Live show Wednesday night 9pm. Call us with YOUR opinions.

  4. BW says:

    Seems like kind of a mess and some bad assumptions on the 2 parties negotiating the deal. Since the properties are owned by Flagler Beach, negotiations need to be with them. I would have to agree that it would be a silly move to do anything in regards to the fishing component of the pier since that is the main attraction to it. Just my opinion.

  5. A. J. Sartin says:

    My wife and I enjoy riding from Vilano Beach to The Pier Restaurant for breakfast, lunch, or supper – the most enjoyable restaurant on the First Coast!

    I have always lived by the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. If a new leasor can take over, and keep the same high quality of service….why not give them the chance?

    I think too many opions are being given about the bait shop – or course it is a fishing pier. The lease is for the Restaurant – let’s stay on target!

    I would like to thank the lady who currently holds the least, for making The Pier Restaurant such a wonderful place to visit – we are riding down this morning to introduce some new Vilano Beach residents to that Florida Tradition….The Pier Restaurant!

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