The Armstrongs respond with a scathing letter of discontent.
AVALON ― Avalon City Council received three new proposals for a fuel dock café and a letter from the former Casino Dock Café owners, Russell and Jenny Armstrong (see link top right corner).
The City Council discussed the proposals asking some questions to the three parties involved at the Oct. 17 meeting, but made no decision to move forward on any one proposal.
Will this play out similar to what the Armstrongs went through?
The city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) on Sept. 8 after the City Council dismissed further negotiations with the Armstrongs at the Sept. 5 council meeting.
The letter was read aloud to the council prior to discussing the three proposals. The Armstrongs chose to not attend the city council meeting and explained why in their letter.
“After much consideration, we have decided not to attend tonight’s council meeting to possibly engage in more futile discussions with the city with regard to the Casino Dock Café lease and/or be present to watch the council hand our business over to another entity,” the Armstrongs’ letter stated.
“We [nevertheless] want to state publicly that we have found the process of attempting to negotiate a reasonable lease with the city of Avalon to be exhausting, confusing and endlessly frustrating and we have been amazed over and over again at the ineptitude and lack of leadership we have seen and experienced,” the letter continued.
The letter also accused the council of being “unethical” by the unwillingness to negotiate and attempt at obtaining more bidders by saying the Armstrongs are “out of the picture.”
Council members had no comments following the reading of the letter. They were silent for a moment before moving on to discuss the proposals.
Three proposals were submitted by other parties by the Oct. 6 deadline. Two out of the three responses proposed a container restaurant concept.
“I’m assuming people might have some qualms about the container thing just because of the industrial look of it, but our hopes and dreams are not to be industrial like that. We could easily work with the city to create either a stucco façade on the container just to blend it in more with what is currently there,” said Megan Wright, who purchased Café Metrople in June 2016.
Wright said she chose to work with Howard CDM on this project, because he has extensive experience with container restaurants.
The container concept allows the project to be completed sooner and be more affordable, according to Wright.
The budget for this project is $650,000 with plans to be open by July 2018 and stay open year round.
Another container restaurant concept was proposed by the owners of Island Caterers, Elizabeth and Gregory Wenger.
Jessica Herzog spoke at the council meeting on behalf of the Wenger’s, because they were working a catered event.
Herzog emphasized they are small business owners, like the Armstrongs.
They project to be open by mid-late spring and would stay open year round, if needed, to cater to the boaters and divers.
“We are looking at a maximum build out of about $300,000 and that would be for everything including the rooftop deck,” Herzog stated.
A third proposal, submitted by Richard Staunton, Jim Ulcickas and Caleb Lins, offers a casual food facility with a $950,000 budget.
Caleb Lins is a business owner of Lobster Trap. Staunton and Ulcickas are principles of Bluewater Avalon.
They project the cafe to be completed by September 2018 and request to be open for eight months with the option of being year round based on demand.
“We looked at this project under the design guidelines that were presented to us by the city,” Staunton stated. “We are under the understanding that the city had designed a building including the space that we would occupy.
“We looked from the point of view not how little we can spend, but what we needed to spend to produce a first class facility out there on the dock,” Staunton added.
All three parties were asked why they didn’t respond to the first RFP by council member Cinde MacCugan-Cassidy
Herzog and Staunton both said the addition of the rooftop deck was a deciding factor.
Wright said she did not want to step on “anyone’s toes.”
The Armstrongs “had the business for 30 years, and unfortunately it didn’t work out, but I just wasn’t comfortable responding to the RFP at that point,” Wright responded.
The council appeared, at this point in the meeting, unprepared to make any decisions. Council members had questions on how to proceed, as if they have not approved an RFP before for a business on the island.
“Is it inappropriate to ask for the credit and financials in the next couple weeks?” Mayor Ann Marshall asked the council.
Cassidy mentioned they should proceed with a background check.
“What? Fingerprints?” Marshall asked.
The proposals still needed to be vetted, City Manager David Jenkins had pointed out at the beginning of this agenda item.
“Since we have three unique proposals and there are some questions, I would suggest that we hold this over. Direct staff to go to the Coastal Commission and the Health Department,” City Council member Oley Olsen recommended.
The council agreed.