Flagler County government and Captain’s Barbecue at Bings Landing are ready to resolve a year-long legal battle over the restaurant’s future in the county park in the Hammock.
The county would make numerous concessions to Captain’s, including allowing it to book and cater events at the Bings pavilion, conducting extensive repairs at the county’s expense, relocate and build new bathrooms, enclose the restaurant’s patio (thus essentially enlarging its interiors) and reimburse Captain’s for certain losses. In exchange, Captain’s agrees to remain at the current location, end its litigation, and pay a somewhat higher rent over time.
The battle since 2018 has divided the Hammock and the larger Flagler community over a popular business’ right to operate on its own terms and a community’s right to keep one of its treasured parks from being overrun by a commercial enterprise.
The battle was in no small measure fueled by the county’s own grave missteps at the outset, when the county administration all but guaranteed Captain’s that it could build a new, much larger building in the middle of the park, even though the County Commission had neither vetted nor approved the plan. The miscalculation, reflective of former County Administrator Craig Coffey’s zeal for deal-making at the expense of political and community concerns, left Captain’s an open target for community ire.
After Coffey was forced out and the commission voted to reject the lease it had approved with Captain’s in November 2018–the lease that would have allowed Captain’s to build the large, new restaurant–Captain’s sued the county for breach of contract.
No hearing was ever held before a judge, but as is common in such civil litigation, the two sides agreed to mediate the issue in an effort to keep it from dragging, or going to trial–an expense neither side relished. Mediation took place in mid-December. On Monday evening, County Attorney Al Hadeed briefed the county commission on the results of that mediation.
“The final words are not yet done. They will be in due course,” Hadeed said. “We want to get an affirmation, or maybe input on the direction that the administrator has taken us relative to the mediation.” The commission unanimously agreed to let Hadeed continue on the course he outlined.
The county had entered into a lease with Captain’s in 2011, with amendments along the way. In 2018, the new lease was developed for the site Captain’s thought it could develop nearer the center of the park. The county commission approved that lease in November 2018.
“Their legal belief is they had a valid, binding lease for November 2018 that entitled them to build on a new site, that it was very, very specific, required very significant expenditures on their part,” Hadeed said, and that they’d relied on the county’s commitment to spend money on engineering and architects to implement that move. They expected to have repairs on the existing facility in the interim–repairs done by the county. The cancellation of that 2018 lease “caused them great damage,” Hadeed said, echoing Captain’s beliefs.
When Captain’s sued, its owners were seeking both to build on the new site and to recover financial damages.
The county’s aim now is to balance Captain’s presence with the character of the park. The county has no intention of building new. “In order for us to be a responsible landlord, we have to bring it up to some suitable operational capability,” Hadeed.
That means the following: The county will reimburse Captain’s costs for the design of the building it did not get to build–up to $50,000, through verified documentation. The county will separate the business’ utilities from those of the county.
Captain’s will be allowed to book special events at the Bings pavilion, where Captain’s will get to cater the events. “We’re trying to do that to give them a greater opportunity to expand their ability to serve Flagler County residents and make up for revenue impairments that result from the fact that we didn’t allow them to build a much larger, expanded restaurant,” Hadeed said.
Finally, Captain’s will agree to completely void the 2018 lease and stick with the previous lease, with a key exception: Captain’s will benefit from the same renewal terms that were in the 2018 lease, which extend Captain’s tenancy 21 years, and potentially to 26 years, but at the current site.
The county will maintain all exterior and interior structural elements, with the first $2,000 in expenses borne by Captain’s, and anything above that paid for by the county.
As for the subsidized lease rate that Captain’s has enjoyed, a sore point with Hammock residents and opponents of the extent of benefits Captain’s was getting from its lease (including no property taxes), that, too, will change. The 2018 lease had locked in a $1,000-a-month rent for the first five years, and no profit sharing with the county above a certain percentage. The settlement would build in increases “that take it much closer to what people would consider to be a market rate over the duration of the lease,” Hadeed said, without specifying the rates.
The county will relocate and modify the restaurant’s bathrooms, which had been built in the mid-1990s, when the building was first modernized. It’s not clear if moving the bathrooms also means an implicit, further enlargement of the restaurant’s floor space. Captain’s will be allowed to install propane gas tanks. The exterior patio area will be enclosed. Removal windows will be installed.
“This benefits the longevity of this building in the county’s interest but also in the interest of the tenant, Captain’s Barbecue,” Hadeed said. The repairs will be conducted outside of business hours to the extent possible, though some work will require closure for about two weeks. Captain’s is pledging not to make a claim for the lost revenue for that period.
If the building is destroyed for whatever reason, or the value of the building is damaged more than 50 percent, the county may elect not to repair the existing building. If the county exercises that option, Captain’s gets the right to build on the same, current site, the successor restaurant, presumably on its own dime (Hadeed did not specify, though the restaurant’s plan to build the new building in 2018 would have been on its own dime).
“Whatever happens out there has got to be consistent with the very unique status of that property,” Hadeed said–its location on the National Scenic Byway, the presence of a National Historic Site on the property, “amazing recreational opportunities on the site that our public has enjoyed,” the county’s substantial spending of money and volunteer hours, and of course the presence of Captain’s Barbecue since 2011. The county has owned the property since 1990 without successfully having a business operate out of that building–until Captain’s.
“I recommend this approach as an appropriate means of resolving the litigation,” Hadeed said. The settlement would be far less time consuming and less expensive than the alternative: going to trial. He said mediation never produces 100 percent happiness for either side. But this settlement is substantially beneficial, he said. Commissioners agreed.
DENNIS MCDONALD says
Amazing train wreck caused by SULLIVAN-HANSEN-MCLAUGHLIN in the very last hours of McLaughlin’s term November 2016. Like McLaughlin always said to me “it takes three VOTES” !
Just one of many with more in the pipeline.
Concerned Citizen says
And you have no room to throw shade.
How many hours and dollars have you cost the county? With frivolous complaints. Meanwhile you behave no different.
We have not forgotten that you have lied numerous times and failed to file accurate paper work. We also haven’t forgotten that you refuse to pay legally sanctioned fines. And that you believe you are above the law.
If your name ever apears on a ballot in this county, I and others will do our level best to make sure you aren’t voted for anything.
What a great deal for the tax payers, Business get what it wants and the public gets……
“Captain’s agrees to remain at the current location, end its litigation, and pay a somewhat higher rent over time. ”
Business don’t need a Chamber of Commerce, Business interest is represented by our elected officials and County employees.
That place is an absolute dump. And in not talking about the building, can t believe they even still exist. Get them out!!
Capt Jim says
Gee Dale, I’m guessing you’ve never eaten there by that comment. We’ve never had a bad meal there. Give it a try sometime.
Concerned Citizen says
I’ve had 2 or 3 meals there. And got sick twice. And imagine that part of their issues prior to this were bad food handling and storage. And it was documented.
Not all of us feel compelled to kiss ass to Captains. Or patronize them for that matter.
Thank the Lord. Captains is one of the best restaurants in town, period.
So will this take away from residents being able to use the pavillion!? We have multiple birthdays there every year as a family tradition! Is the county going to allow some buissness to take that away from us? Will they have to schedule around the residents? This captians place is a bunch of jerks for that. We will not be eating there!
Ocean Palm Golfer says
Looks like the Town of Flagler is making the same mistake that the County is now admitting they made.
Making a legitimate lease with a business and then backing out on the terms of the lease. I’m referring to the 9 hole golf course Ocean Palm . I’m not going into detail and I’m not picking sides. But. If you are the party that is trying to force the business out, and throwing blame on someone who has been making payments on time it looks like to me you become a shady participant. I’m just saying. Make an equitable settlement, as in the BBQ entity, put it behind you and let’s play golf.
Spending way too muchtime on thisget it over with already
Percy's mother says
More concessions YET AGAIN by the county and the taxpayers thanks to Al Hadeed.
ANOTHER building YET AGAIN with problems and issues that requires extensive MONEY to fix, all at taxpayer expense.
What do WE get?
1. Another dilapidated building requiring extensive repairs and renovations.
2. More of our taxpayer money going to fund something we don’t want.
What does Captain’s get: Everything they want.
Al Hadeed and the commissioners blinked. Had I been on the commission, I would NOT have blinked.
Edith Campins says
So basically they get almost everything they wanted and the taxpayers get what? Mr.Hadded has sold us down the river once again. Remember if Captains had been cited for their original violations we would not have had this mess in the first place. Mr. Hadeed knew they were in violation and did nothing.
Name (required) says
I’d prefer to see “Captains Bbq” buy the land, the building, the clientele, upgrades, etc. just like any other restaurateur. Or as a leasee, just rent the property at usual market price. Considering the long term perpetual safety net that’s been provided by the county over how many years now, what else is owed exactly???
Another blunder by our county leaders, nothing new here, just another blunder. We have learned to expect that from our county leaders
Captain BBQ. The community needs it and Bing’s Park. Let them do business. 👍❤️
“The battle was in no small measure fueled by the county’s own grave missteps at the outset” – this seems to be the norm in Flagler County government. Look at the waste just to build or relocate the Sheriff’s Office. One has to ask, who’s running the show in Flagler County? When will the waste of taxpayers money end? Enough is enough already.
This article keeps repeating that the County will pay for this and that…..County?
Do you mean the taxpayers?
Coffey is finally gone, now we need to get right Hadeed. . . his incompetence is a disgrace.! Joe Mullins also needs to be GONE!
Will NOT be giving my business to Captain’s EVER!
Dennis C Rathsam says
After living in Louisanna & Texas for many years, & traveling through out the dirty south, I have eaten all types of BBQ. Some good, some not so good, but the crap they sell at Captains is the worst Ive ever eaten! Whom ever is the pitmaster is he or she needs a crash corse in Q. Dry, reheated, chicken, ribs, & brisket. This is not BBQ! What are u people thinking of? I love the flavor of smoked meat, Im on my 2nd smoker now, after many years I have perfected the art of properly smoking meats & fish. Ive tryed Captains 3 or 4 times NEVER MORE!!!!! Each time the same result…No more chances, terrible, dry, reheated BBQ
Hammock Resident says
Unbelievable! The County puts other builders through the ringer, and with Captains, continues the sweet deal no other business comes close to! Something here stinks. We have boycotted Captains for around two years now, and will continue to stay away. Let the oblivious tourists and those who don’t give a damn about the Hammock residents, or what is good and right in the world, to continue to promote such a scandal.
William Middleton says
Not a bad deal for something that was supposed to be take out and bait for fishermen. At the very least this should have gone out for bid I would love to know where you can lease water front for what they are paying and they get it for 20-26 years.This is a very popular park and already over crowded. This should have never have happened and has cost the tax payers a bundle. I hope the voters remember this come election time !
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Sherry sure has it right – Hadeed needs to go- he has squandered more money for the us the taxpayers and doesn’t even negotiate or read contracts – he is inept, incompetent, rude and self-serving.
No, he’s trying to clean up the mess….you should talked to those Commissioners who rammrodded this through. Start with Hansen. It’s in his District
Mr. Hadeed is doing his job…..poor decisions require him to be a Kindergarten cop.
And, yes, you and the others know perfectly well who is truly responsible here, it’s not the County Attorney who is at a significant disadvantage.
Hopefully, the County has learned it’s lessons. A vote by a ‘lame duck’ Commissioner and 2 others who obviously didn’t understand the facts..shouldn’t be allowed to ‘pass’ where it has a far reaching taxpayer impact….without intense scrutiny.
Next November “through the bums out” and elect new bums so they can rob the public to benefit “small business”.
concered citizen says
This restaurant has had easy street for too long. What a rip to the taxpayers of this county. I used to rent space for a business and could only wish such a sweet deal as they have. As much as they charge for a meal they should be raking in the profits. They pay almost nothing for rent in a beautiful setting. Talk about greed on their part. And to think the county was going to let them build in the middle of the park!! Typical government deals. If the public had not raised a tiff then it would have happened. Such a corrupted deal would have passed through. If they think they are so abused by having to shut down while being renovated let them try to get the deal they have somewhere else! Not going to happen. And not to mention the long lease they have. That is not normally done with anyone and given a almost freebee lease rate. They need to quit crying and pay their dues.
What Else Is New? says
Of course we knew this would happen. Al Hadeed, the Commissioners, the County Administrator. The Hammock never had a chance. And they are allowed to cater in the pavilion? Bless their hearts, they won’t have enough room in the expanded restaurants thanks to the taxpayers paying for all those expansions. Disgusting.
Concerned Citizen says
So the county caved and Captains got what they wanted.
Dont forget that Captain’s gave “campaign contributions” IE bribes to most everyone involved. Once you bribe someone oops I mean “donate campaign contributions” you own them. And it’s very hard to say no. I wonder if Hadeed saw any of the hush money.
Our BOCC and County Attorney has been bought long ago by Special Interests and Developers. None care any longer about their consituients. It’s all about fattening that wallet.
Remember this come election year. If and when we are allowed to vote. We need to vote out all of these money hungry non-ethical BOCC members. I’m only hoping that they aren’t allowed to retain positions unchallenged. Because of “Covid19”
Btw. I don’t recall there being any notifications of this. Is this another skirt around Sunshine Laws? And the only way we find out is thru Flagler Live?
They get a lease that runs at least 20 years and the tax payers get to maintain the property? This is simply another example of piss poor representation by County Officials. We need a complete replacement of any and all persons who have ever had anything to do with this issue. I believe that the graft and corruption hee runs Parnell with the Sears building, the bank building, the old hospital and every other property the county has been involved in over the last 10 years!
Another bad decision by the Flagler County Commission laid on the backs of the taxpayer. A private business deserves no tax payer support mandated by a bunch of yahoos on a power trip.
The people of Flagler County can fix this by doing two things, boycott Captains BBQ, and vote out any Commissioner supporting this decision.
Elections are coming and all the incumbent commissioners need to be gone as well as Hadeed and manager Cameron as he has conflict of interest after selling his property to GA transplant commissioner Mullins, that also should be booted . This stinky deal they approved to Captain’s BBQ is shameful shows one of many ways they waste our hard earned taxes…besides the deals with these pilot training schools; Embry Riddel and now Phoenix aviation and others, training all these Chinese and Middle Eastern pilots making rounds and rounds, stunts and killing engines above our homes in Palm Coast just creating a noise and safety concern for all Palmcoasters on the ground. They are supposed to practice west of State Road Rte 1 over the agricultural lands but nope, they come above us to berate us even over 10 miles north east from the airport, with their nuisance… These pilot schools benefit the airport enterprise only but we in our city have to endure the nuisance. Is a county run and county airport benefit so train over the county and stay clear of Palm Coast! When our city officials are going to address this abuse? So often emergency landings… in Palm Coast Parkway west on the Rte 100 bridge over intracoastal or dropping a training aircraft door on B section. All these pilot training students above us are a tragedy waiting to happen with hundreds of f;lights daily, then when a house is hit like happened and burns to the ground (lucky lady owner escaped thru window) some don’t even carry insurance. These schools been kicked off Volusia county or very restricted in their flight paths there so then our wondrous county commissioners invite them here…starting 2004 and now they do as they please. I pay over three thousand in taxes for my house to have to hear these engines overhead daily what about some peace and quiet?
Laura H says
What commercial lease allows for improvements to INSIDE? Do taxpayers know this includes the HVAC (ac) system, the ANSUL (hood system), flooring, wiring upgrades, etc., etc?
Additionally, I am concerned Captains may have gotten a non-compete for the pavilion which prevents private residents from choosing their own cater for their pavilion booking and/or allows a restaurant to get preference over a PUBLIC pavilion usage.
Overall these concessions make such a sweetheart deal that is NEVER seen anywhere on any commercial lease in the area for any other business. They are essentially choosing winners & losers with these practices and snubbing all other honest small businesses in the Hammock & Flagler.
The County lawyer & cronies are still going strong…
How can the county give the pavilion rights to a buissness!? This pavillion has long belonged to the citizens of Flagler County. We have many birthdays and holidays under this pavillion for many years! Now we must contend with a buissness to use it?! LAWSUIT LAWSUIT LAWSUIT , together as citizens we now have grounds to sue the county and Captains BarfBque to get full access to our pavillion. SHAME ON THE COUNTY AND CAPTAINS!
Lack of comment from our elected “decision mskers” is very disturbing. They seem to say “screw you people, you legally elected me, so now I can do whatever I want to”
Does it sound familiar? It should.
The best. . . and maybe only way. . . to eliminate this particular problem is to avoid patronizing the business involved. We will NOT be giving Captain’s our business.
The over arching incompetence of Hadeed and the BOCC is the fundamental issue here. Coffey was certainly an instrumental actor/instigator in many, many BAD decisions in our county. He is gone now, but those who enabled him are still in place. The county attorney certainly has a responsibility to guide the decisions of the BOCC regarding their legal standing, soundness, and ethics. The fulfillment of that responsibility has been sorely lacking for many. many years. . . creating a spreading cancer of mistakes. We need a NEW county attorney NOW! Hadeed has been in the position much too long!
In addition, the BOCC needs to demand that Mullins resign his position. That would be just the beginning of cleaning our county government of unethical corruption and misuse of our hard earned taxes.
We need to bring back the fundamental principles of “honesty”, “integrity”, “transparency” and “ethics” before we can even begin to “TRUST” in our local government.
During all of this, Captains BBQ has been doing business, pretty much non stop. They were packed Friday evening, so all of those that say “I’ll never eat their again” , well must be a really low on the minority ticker. All of this BS by the county, hasn’t hurt their business, the “protest” didn’t hurt it either. Things will go on, and all of this will be just another Coffey, Hadeed screw up for the books.