Mike and Rita Janecek have run the Snack Shack concession, above, since the cabin reopened after being saved from demolition in 2010.
MADEIRA BEACH – Changes are coming to the Snack Shack at Archibald Park, along with $1 million in park improvements.
The iconic log structure, which has been part of the city of Madeira Beach’s life for the past 80-plus years, will likely be getting new management.
The City Commission decided at its Aug. 29 workshop meeting that the time had come to replace current managers, Mike and Rita Janecek. The couple has run the “The Old Snack Shack” concession since the cabin reopened after being saved from demolition in 2010.
At the time, the Janeceks promised their operation would reprise the popular concession stand run there by VFW veterans in the 1970s. The Snack Shack has featured beach food and beverages, including beer, which was added when an alcohol license was granted in late 2010. Madeira Beach is one of only two local beach communities that allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages on the beach.
City Manager Shane Crawford said concerns have grown in recent days about how the Snack Shack is being managed. He mentioned bounced checks among other problems.
“We have not had the quality over there that we would like to see,” said Commissioner Elaine Poe.
Poe said the clientele is also an issue.
“I’d like a higher class than what we are seeing over there now,” she said.
Vice Mayor Terry Lister favored a management change, but cautioned the Snack Shack had never been a “high class” place.
“We can’t shut the door to anyone for any reason. We’re improving the park for all the people in the city,” he said.
Crawford said he did not expect new managers to make significant changes to the renowned Snack Shack beach concession concept.
“The Snack Shack will be the Snack Shack,” Crawford promised. He said the new lessors “will just be redoing what’s already there.”
He added, “It will always be open to anyone.”
The commission authorized Crawford to put the Snack Shack concession out for bid. The Janeceks will be given 90 days’ notice, as required by the contract. The agreement can be terminated on 30 days’ notice “for cause,” or within 90 days for no reason.
Snack Shack manager Rita Janecek said the commission’s decision to terminate the concession contract and go out for bids came as a complete surprise.
“We had not been aware of any problems whatsoever with the city and have had no complaints from customers,” Janecek said when informed of the commission’s action. “We were totally blindsided by this,” Janecek said.
“No one from the city even bothered to tell us there were any concerns at all,” she said.
She said the city’s action was “especially disappointing considering all the money, time and effort we have spent on the Snack Shack.”
The Janeceks manage other local beach concessions, including four Paradise Grill locations and a new restaurant opening in Gulfport. “We are actually expanding our operations, and recently had our contract with St. Pete Beach extended,” Rita Janecek said. “We were taken aback and very disappointed at the backhanded way we feel this was handled.”
Former Commissioner Nancy Oakley is a frequent customer of the Snack Shack. When told of the commission’s decision to bid out the concession agreement, Oakley said she was “totally shocked.”
“I love the Snack Shack,” she said. “The food is good.”
Concerning the clientele, Oakley said, “It’s all beach people. And beach people are beach people. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
She added, “You’re not going to change the clientele there by changing the manager.”
Fourth of July event may be relocated
The city’s Fourth of July party at Archibald Park, featuring fireworks launched from a barge in the gulf, may be ending.
The celebration has been plagued with problems since moving to Archibald Park two years ago. The misfires have included malfunctioning fireworks, difficulty in obtaining a barge, and rainstorms and rough seas this year.
Crawford said putting together the annual event had become “one of the hardest things I do.” He suggested a move to John’s Pass, where the fireworks could be launched from the more sedate waters of the Intracoastal.
“That takes a lot of the unknowns out of (the celebration),” he said. The fireworks’ former home at the recreation complex next to city hall is unavailable due to anticipated construction of the new municipal center complex, Crawford added.
Commissioners liked the John’s Pass location. “I like doing the party at John’s Pass Park,” Commissioner Pat Shontz said.
Lister said a planned new audio system at John’s Pass Village would allow music to accompany the fireworks, “like in New York.”
Crawford said he would check into moving the Fourth of July celebration to John’s Pass, and report back to the commission in 30 to 60 days.