Last Updated: 7 p.m.
Palm Coast government’s relationship with the Green Lion Cafe is over. The deadline for the restaurant to sign a new lease agreement lapsed a week ago. The city did not–and still has not–filed notice that it is terminating the five-year lease. But an attempt this week by Palm Coast City Council member Nick Klufas to restart discussions failed, closing any possibility of further negotiations.
Two council members–Eddie Branquinho and Ed Danko–were especially opposed to giving the restaurant another chance because of the “disrespect” its owners displayed toward the city’s administrative staff and council members at a meeting last month. Tony Marlow, who owns the restaurant, at least twice called city officials “crooks,” and his son, Chris Marlow, who runs the Green Lion, came close to being escorted out of the council chamber as he repeatedly spoke out of order from the back of the room. Their subsequent threat to sue likely did not help.
The next move is for city government to issue a letter notifying the Green Lion that it is terminating the arrangement “for convenience,” as the 2017 contract allows it to. But that also means the Green Lion has 180 days to clear out of the premises, and the city will owe the Green Lion 12 months’ back rent, starting from the date of termination: $7,200. (The restaurant is paying $600 a month.)
The city will be issuing a request for proposals, soliciting any vendor who may be considered in place of the Green Lion–or the Green Lion itself, which Mayor Alfin said he hoped would be among those responding. That may be difficult to imagine at this point, after this much damage to the relationship.
A city spokesperson said that letter had not gone out as of today, leaving the Green Lion to operate “as normal until we issue a notice to terminate.” That, the spokesperson said, “is at the discretion of the city manager,” Denise Bevan. There’s no question that the letter will be issued, but “there won’t be a mad rush” to do so.
Klufas at the end of a five-hour council meeting Tuesday night attempted to “extend one final olive branch” by way of a two-week grace period, during which the city could have held a workshop with the restaurant’s owners. His motion, seconded by John Fanelli, failed, 3-2, with Branquinho, Danko and Mayor David Alfin opposed.
Klufas had been absent from the meeting in May when talk turned to confrontation. The Marlows were embittered by Alfin’s decision to give each of them only three minutes’ time at the podium, like any other member of the public, even though the lease or concession agreement renewal was on the agenda. The council approved the new lease, on its terms, after adding an extra $1,000-a-month charge for water that the Green Lion disputed, and gave the restaurant until July 1 to sign. They did not.
“I wish I had been present to advocate a little bit more on the behalf of this community asset,” Klufas said, “and what I’m asking for tonight is just to realize that this is a little bit more of an asset to Palm Coast than just the actual Green Lion. There’s a tremendous following that is the golfers of Palm Coast and there’s going to be a lot of kerfuffle made of this, and I just think that we have an opportunity to get ahead of something here.” He did not specify. He may have had the restaurant’s threat to sue in mind (“the Green Lion reserves any and all rights to legally challenge the City’s attempt to terminate the Existing Contract,” the Green Lion’s attorney wrote the city on June 28, after the city’s 4-0 vote to ratify the new lease.)
“If our best case scenario is we get another restaurant in there that is as qualified, as capable and adds to the same allure to the golf course,” Klufas continued, “we’re still going to have all of this unnecessary friction that’s going to occur between now and then.” He sought a one-hour workshop with the Green Lion, questioning whether the Green Lion had been treated fairly, though he also blamed the owners for themselves cutting off negotiations with the city before the May vote.
“I’m not certain that the direction that we gave was clear enough that there wasn’t all these additional things that got added along the way,” Klufas said. “I think both people and both parties felt a little bit wronged and there’s no doubt in my mind that they should have continued communications with the city. That was not the correct move. But I think as a council, we can see that there’s going to be a firestorm that’s coming our way if we don’t at least give them a chance to try to plead their case and come to a more amicable solution.” He wanted to “have the city come out on the right side of this versus being portrayed as kicking them out of Palm Harbor golf course.”
Fanelli said the Green Lion had the chance to resolve conflicts before the final May meeting. Its owners did not take that chance, by ending communications. Danko, contrasting the Marlow’s behavior with that of supporters of Waste Pro, the garbage hauler that lost the city’s contract after 16 years, said Waste pro supporters were disappointed but “didn’t cause a ruckus. The treatment we were subjected to by the Marlows the last time they were here is inexcusable.” Branquinho cited the “crooks” insult and an apparently hostile phone call from a former Green Lion employee.
Alfin invited the Green Lion to submit a proposal. “I would encourage them to enjoy the process and if they are the best service and if they are the best business model, then they certainly will win the business, win the RFP,” he said.
Fanelli hesitated for 12, silent seconds when Alfin asked him if his second was still in play, before saying it was. So the motion didn’t die. But it was killed seconds later, and with it the five-year history at Palm Harbor of a restaurant that had won Trip Advisor’s highest ratings for any such business in Palm Coast.
“As we have not received notification regarding Termination of Convenience as of yet,” Tony Marlow wrote in answer to questions this evening, “we cannot make any decisions regarding the future except to say that no member of staff will be put out of work & we will look after them all.” He added: “Thanks to Councilman Nick Klufas for an excellent common sense appeal. So sad it ended this way as it was so avoidable.”
The council has made it personal in lieu of professional. Watch the next RFP/RFB. FOR CRONNIEIZUM. THE handwriting was on the wall a long time ago.
Let’s see if I followed this corectly, the city council threw cow pies at the Green Lion, the Green Lion called the cow pie throwers some names, then the cow pie throwers lost their big boy pants and came back in diapers … and now all thats left is a cartoon
Deborah Coffey says
I think you got it exactly right!
Johnny Wishbone says
Every single person on the council needs to be removed. I sure as heck am not going to vote for anyone of them next time around. Shame. Bunch of Rino’s
I just can’t imagine anyone wanting to take on a new restaurant here. Who would want to deal with this city council? Run away!
Mary Ramsey says
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Now is not the time to buy real estate or bully a cheap lease deal, along with dealing with all time high material and labor costs. The deal offered was the best available anywhere. As a business owner, your daily life is a fine balance of kicking and kissing asses. This was a time for the latter.
Yes, this was “so avoidable”. Be sure to write that on your bathroom mirror as a daily reminder Mr. Marlowes. You majored in the minors and lost the pissing contest.
There is a resounding “Good!” coming from the hundred other small restaurant owners around town. All’s fair in love and war. You’re no more exempt nor special than anyone else.
This is on city council
So you’re one of those owners? If so, what’s *your* Trip Advisor rating?
Peggy krimm says
One of the very best restaurants in Palm Coast. Great food , service and outdoor setting. It is such a shame that we could lose this great place to enjoy a good meal and good service. It is a very well run restaurant!
Please don’t close!
I bet if you put up some rainbow flags and hold some more drag shows over there it will help. Good job people.
Edith Campins says
I wonder which of the concil members “buddies” has been behind this all along. Someone wants that location. All along this has been a coordinated effort to replace the Green Lion with one of their “own.” Wait and see. Vote them out.
I’ll bet there’s a new restaurant owner coming into Palm Coast that’s related to one of the council members or maybe even the mayor. And Danko being like a little child punishing them for being honest about some of the council members being crooks
That’s the way the country is today, people think they can yell and insult people to get what they want. If they don’t agree with you you are always wrong. Good for city council for taking a stand after being labeled as crooks. Sorry Tony and Chrissy your hissy fit didn’t help this time. See ya!
Bill Mann says
Eventually a connection with another interested party will surface explaining finally why Alfin and his cronies were hellbent on running off the Marlowes, Payola$$
Awwwwwww, the grown councilmen’s feelings were hurt!
Dennis C Rathsam says
I said it many many tmes….Dont get in bed with the city of Palm Coast, they will screw you every time. Green Lion saved the golf course, and bailed Palm Coast out of a mess, of their own creating. And now acting like little children ( sticks and stones will break my back, but words can never hurt me) grow up you assholes. Dont cut your nose off to spite your face. Watch the city give another party this resturant, everything will be super dooper wonderfull, hopefully the food will be good…Then the greed, & the PC,bullshit will start again…..Vote theses baffoons out of office!!!! You have witnessed this all this crap for too long, too many mistakes, too many tax increases, too much lies & bullshit! Its time for all of them to go!
“Two council members–Eddie Branquinho and Ed Danko–were especially opposed to giving the restaurant another chance because of the “disrespect” its owners displayed toward the city’s administrative staff and council members at a meeting last month.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. They went on to kill …”the five-year history at Palm Harbor of a restaurant that had won Trip Advisor’s highest ratings for any such business in Palm Coast.”
It seems like Nick Klufas is the only reasonable member of the commission.
Both sides should suck it up, agree to meet, with NO time limit. The best interest for the city is for the restaurant to remain a happy tenant. Otherwise, it will costs the city, time and money.
The Voice Of Reason says
You got that right Jake. Nick is professional. Does his homework and is very pleasant. Agree with your last paragraph.
We probably have the most uneducated city council and mayor in any city.
To get rid of a thriving business which the people of Palm Coast love and not have a replace is extremely poor business sense.
Obviously these people have no business sense.
Gene Lopes says
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The city will have to pay $7200 to get out of this deal, the owners take all of their equipment, tables chairs, workers. Who in their right mind will take over this place knowing that many people will not support the restaurant because of how the Marlowes have been treated. When does the city start making money on this place when the Green Lion leaves? This seems like a losing proposition for all parties. This stinks of some kind of insider deal.
Deborah Coffey says
It will be a sad day for Palm Coast to lose the Green Lion. It’s tops around here and there’s no guarantee that the golf course will survive its loss. Palm Coast needs new leadership.
It’s been quite the mystery why the city would behave in such a manner towards a successful business. It’s not like Flagler County Government is a stranger to back room deals that benefit certain individuals (Captains BBQ) at the expense of the taxpayer. And it’s not like them to suddenly want to be good stewards of the taxpayers dollars after voting themselves big raises. I realize the County and city are two different entities but basically run by to the same political regime. Did the Palm Coast City Council suddenly realize that Green Lion was not paying fair market value? Are there council members who benefit themselves or have their friends (i.e. campaign contributors) benefit from either taking over what Green Lion has made into a successful space or would like to see the whole city run golf course go under? Things that make you go hmmm…
Prior to the Marlow family taking a huge risk to open the Green Lion restaurant at the city owned golf course, Palm Coast officials knew very well the dire situation they were in with that empty space in that old modular building that did not add any benefit at all to golfers or local residents. It is no wonder the city offered the owners of the Golden Lion a sweetheart deal to try to recoup some of their losses. So, in comes the Green Lion and the Marlows spent more than $100,000 remodeling and upgrading the restaurant’s dining area and kitchen, and they were on their way to a highly successful 5 year run due to the excellence of the food and the restaurant staff. So 5 years later, without the city doing any structural upgrades of the old modular building to help out, not even providing separate utility metering to determine exactly what the restaurant is using so they could pay their own utility costs, the city sees $$$ due to the perceived profits the Marlows are making from their successful business and now the city wants its cut like a mob boss does, an offer they can’t refuse. If I were the Marlows and had put in 5 years of sweat equity to make a business successful like the Green Lion, I would have been rightly pissed off and said a few well-chosen words in that city council meeting too! So now that the city’s feelings are hurt after hearing an earful from the restaurant’s owners, the city is slamming the door on further negotiations. Well, I for one hope the Marlows find a suitable, available space to relocate the Green Lion to, and maybe rename it Greener Pastures for the Lion so they where they no longer are under the unfriendly control of the city “leaders” in Palm Coast. Is this situation an outlier? I think not. Just like the battle that Captain’s BBQ in the hammock has been going through with Flagler County, it should be a warning to any business that is considering entering into a lease or other agreement with a local government body. While the local government needs the revenue and will offer a great deal up front, eventually they start seeing $$$ when a business such as the Green Lion or Captain’s BBQ becomes successful due to the hard work and success of the businesses themselves. In both cases these are cautionary tales that really do show how, despite blubbering from local government officials about how business friendly they think they are, that the reality of these private/government agreements often deteriorate and end up with bad feelings and potential loss of the business and employees out of a job due to what I and a lot of others see as unwillingness by the city to properly negotiate in good faith in order for the business to remain open.
The Marlowe’s don’t need Palm Coast or the golf course. There are plenty of places around that would love to have a Green Lion in their community, and not necessarily at a golf course.
This is only the latest gaffe perpetrated by Palm Coast, which unfortunately will be the beginning of a string of additional failures.
Absolutely Done says
The city council isn’t worried about the people who supported and continue to support The Green Lion (and the same apparently applied to the trash vote)
Mr Danko, in a reply to a resident who emailed him expressing his disappointment in the councils decision regarding the Green Lion, was told that he was not concerned about a roomful of people who filled the city meeting a couple months ago as there were 100,000 people in Palm Coast. Pay attention folks – he obviously doesn’t think your voices matter in the election process!!
Sounds just like JOE MULLINS, They all GOTTA GO
Please please please vote these people out. Otherwise we will never see any change!
Green Lion will be replaced with a new store. It’s a combo CVS/Dollar General
Get rid of the dump. The food is pricey and it sucks!!!!!! Build another splash park for 10 million or a sheriff substation for 20 million!!!!
Thomas the tank engine says
How about the city gets out of the golf course business altogether. They cannot run the city and they cannot run a business, you need maturity and ability for either. Sure, vote them out. Then what? There’s very little voter turnout for local elections, especially in off years. Maybe it’s just the quality of people who live here that explains the resultant representation?
Mischa Gee says
I would like to know why we have local elections on August 33rd, with very little notification to the voters.
Many of us are on vacation in the summer, especially in August. Why don’t we have our elections the same time as the Federal and State Elections? I wonder if it isn’t exactly because the politicians want a low voter turnout, making it easier for them to stay in office.
The ORIGINAL land of no turn signals says
All the golf coarse’s should be privately owned as the tennis complex .They have been money pits since day one and boils on the ass’s of the tax payers.
It’s truly pathetic what the city has done. My 6yr old son and I love to go practice and have a bite to eat. These are memories I will never forget. I’m glad I have photos as reminders, because once the Green Lion leaves we will follow. There aren’t many places that make a young golfer feel so welcome. We spent 8hrs there last Thursday and had lunch as well. I guess we’ll find somewhere else to go, but it won’t be the same. Now I get to explain to him why the city decided they needed to bully his friends away. Don’t vote for these current “crooks.”
Randy Bentwick says
Before you go to another Palm Coast golf course – be sure to research who owns it and who will benefit from the Green Lion being gone…
Bill Mann says
Concerned Citizen says
Eddie Branquinho and Ed Danko
Whenever these two names pop up it’s never in a favorable light. And they don’t have much room to talk about disrespect. Btw there appears to be several videos of Branquinho putting on quite the fire works display on several 4th of July’s. Why is this relevant? It’s the same behavior Mullins exhibits with his reckless driving. “I’m important in my own mind. And the rules don’t apply to me” But they expect others to follow them. I mean if you or I continously broke the rules and law we would be unemployed and in jail right?
Our County and City needs a major overhaul on both Commisions. Otherwise they will run this county into the ground. Remember stuff like this as well as the mess the County had with Captains. Our Commisioners need to stay out of the give a special deal busniess. And RFP everything openly.
Laura H says
Council just bit off it’s nose to spite it’s face, again. Thank you Nick for rising above the “hurt feelings” and trying to appease the situation. Palm Coast residents all know Green Lion is the best thing that has happened to that golf course in years and has helped generate more revenue to keep the entire course “in the green” than any hotdog vendor ever has (or will). Shows how far the council is really disconnected from it’s constituents.
The mayor “encourages” GL to reapply- why? So he can have the pleasure of rejecting them again?
PS- “Crooks” was mild compared to the choice words that come to my mind when describing the mayor and certain council members
Just wondering if Alfin has buddies that now want to move in to the Green Lion, something seems fishy. Please people next time you go vote remember it is time to change council members and when it’s time to vote for a new mayor remember to get rid of Alfin he has done nothing for the City of PC but cause problems with Waste Pro the Green Lion and who knows what else he has his hands on.
The Marlows had a great deal, for sure. But they took what was offered to them by the city. You can’t blame them for that. They SHOULD be paying a fair price. The previous lease reflected that this was a distressed property in dire need of a turnaround. The Marlows achieved that.
This council has a very short memory. It’s almost as if Ed Danko moved here just in time to establish residency after his humiliating defeat in Dare County, NC. (Timeline below)
*January 11, 2018: Danko announces he is running for Dare County BOCC
*February 24, 2018: Danko is ousted from the Dare County GOP Board. Danko had become involved in a personal dispute with a local business. He reportedly suggested that he could make things difficult for the owners and an employee if he were elected to the Dare County BOCC
* April 25, 2018: Danko purchases a home in Palm Coast
*May 8, 2018: Danko received 723 votes in the primary for Dare County BOCC
* Spring 2019: Danko begins his campaign for Palm Coast City Council
This man came here just to stir up shit.
Randy Bentwick says
The Palm Coast City Council is obviously not interested in working with the Marlows.
There is definitely some other “arrangement” in the works that will be more profitable for them.
Danko is the ring-leader of a four-ring-circus – with Klufas being the only one who seems to have any integrity.
But the voters refuse to get rid of them so it proves what Thomas Jefferson said – we get the government we deserve.
Randy, I agree with you and T.J. about getting the government we deserve. This holds true through all levels of government and as it reaches the Federal/National level it showcases the Achilles Heel of our current system. The problems created by the casual/emotional voter have the potential to end it for all of us. Local cronies are annoying but failing national leaders can prove fatal.
I Just sent in a comment and was told my email address is wrong, not so, please inform me what’s wrong with it since I use it all the time and get email delivered to it.