Last Updated: Friday, 10:55 a.m.
Last October Jamie Bourdeau, owner of Flagler Beach’s Beach Front Grille, won the bid to run the restaurant at Palm Harbor Golf Club in Palm Coast. He and co-owner Dudley Shaw called it Loopers. It replaced the Green Lion this spring, and is ramping up to full service by next month.
Now, Bourdeau, with a different co-owner–Joseph Wright, owner of Quantum Electrical Contractors and other local businesses–is buying the lease at High Jackers Restaurant at the county airport, a popular, lucrative property that has greatly benefited from the county’s investment at the airport, and significant growth there for more than a decade.
“Nothing changes in our scope,” Flagler County Executive Airport Director Roy Sieger said. “Having a rest at the airport is a nice feature to have. High Jackers had a good run, they had it for 22 years, they’re just making a decision to sell it and moving on to do different things.” However, Sieger noted, “they do plan on changing the name of the restaurant. I don’t know what that would be. I don’t think it’s going to happen right away.” Sieger himself would prefer the name didn’t change, because when he travels around the country, he hears of High Jackers’ established reputation. But he said he could understand the new owners looking to put their own imprint on the business, and it’s not the county’s call.
The county is the 47,000 square foot restaurant’s landlord and has been leasing the property to Flagler Tailwinds for 22 years. That company is owned by Gail Holt and Richard Bancroft of Flagler Beach. Holt owns High Tides at Snack Jack, the celebrated restaurant at the south end of Flagler Beach that has also been maliciously targeted by two hurricanes in the last six years, but keeps defying the tides.
Bourdeau and Wright are calling their company, incorporated in mid-February, Quantum Cowboys. It already lists High Jackers’ location as its address: 202 Airport Road. Quantum Cowboys is paying Holt $700,000, according to a county official and another person familiar with the transaction. The county will not see any part of that money. Bourdeau could not be reached before this article initially published.
The county’s lease with Tailwinds includes an “assignment and subletting” provision. The lease-holders are exercising the assignment provision, which means that Quantum Cowboys will step into the shoes of the existing lease-holders and assume all responsibilities from that point forward. There is no sublease. “They sold the bus for around $700,000, so basically the county does a document that assigns the lease from tailwinds to Quantum Cowboys,” Sieger said.
Assignment is contingent on the County Commission’s approval. The County Commission is taking up the assignment at its meeting Monday, when it is expected to approve it. It is not an opportunity for the county to renegotiate the lease, Based on the assignment provision’s wording, the county’s consent cannot be unreasonably withheld, as long as the new owners have a demonstrable capability of running a restaurant.
The county administration memo to the commissioners in preparation for Monday’s decision reveals that Beach Front grille “averages $2.25 million in annual sales.” Wright is described as the owner of Quantum Air Conditioning, Quantum Auto Repair, and Anthony’s Pizza in Palm Coast and St. Augustine, businesses that “have done more than $10 million in revenue in the last seven years,” according to the county’s memo to commissioners. Wright is already a tenant at the airport, leasing a hangar there.
The memo notes Bourdeau’s new acquisition of the restaurant at Palm Harbor Golf Club–without noting the protracted battles, to which Bourdeau was not a party, that preceded that acquisition as the former Green Lion’s owners and Palm Coast government clashed. Loopers is being charged less than half the rent at High Jackers, and has fewer of the responsibilities attached to the High Jackers lease.
The county and Tailwinds renewed the lease for 10 years in June 2021, with Tailwinds at the time paying $1,290 a month in rent, or $15,480 a year. Rent increased to $3,000 a month, or $36,000 a year, last June (compared to $1,500 a month for Loopers at Palm Harbor), with annual increases based on each year’s consumer price index as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That calculation is currently at 5.3 percent, so if that figures holds through May, rent would increase in June to $3,159 a month. The lease holder is responsible for all utilities, including water and sewer, maintenance in and around the building and garbage pick-up.
There are no property taxes. There is no profit-sharing measure, the way there is between Flagler Beach government and the Funky pelican, the restaurant at the city-owned pier. Funky Pelican is required to pay the city 3 percent of all gross sales in excess of $1 million a year. (Funky Pelican’s rent is around $4,000 a month.)
When the High Jackers lease was renewed in 2021, the county acknowledged that it was still well below market value. But two factors went into that lower rate: the history of the restaurant, before Holt took it over in 2001, was poor. And the county imposes numerous requirements on the lease-holder, including all responsibilities for air conditioning systems and roof repairs. A list of repairs and maintenance requirements accompanies the renewal of the lease, all of them the lease-holder’s responsibility. Those included painting the exterior of the building and fixing all damaged wood in the structure ($14,000); replacing the front entrance canopy ($7,500); replacing all awnings, refinishing all floors and rebuilding the front north side of the restaurant with a new brick pathway from the parking lot ($36,000); replacement of the roof ($27,000); replacement of the AC units on an as-needed basis ($6,000 per unit), and other improvements.
Sieger said the new owners intend to go further with improvements.
In essence, the county does not have the usual maintenance responsibilities that landlord does at High Jackers. The assignment document the county drafted, however, does include a nod to recent developments–the decision by the county to end its relationship with a new lease-holder at Bull Creek Fish Camp, and to destroy that building, citing structural damage from flooding. That provision states that if an act of nature such as a flood, a tornado or a hurricane were to demolish the building, the county is under no obligation to the lease holder to rebuild it. But the lease holder has the option to rebuild at its own expense “in order to finish out the term of the Lease or in accordance with a new Lease negotiated by the County and Cowboys in good faith.”
While Quantum Cowboys signed their part of the assignment on April 18, the document is awaiting the county’s signatures. It would take effect on May 17.