City denies Paradise Grille’s lease extension

Customers of Paradise Grille on Upham and Pass-A Grille beaches can sit back and enjoy their favorite beachfront eatery for at least another five years.

ST PETE BEACH - Customers of Paradise Grille on Upham and Pass-A Grille beaches can sit back and enjoy their favorite beachfront eatery for at least another 5 years.

At their Aug. 28 meeting, city commissioners unanimously voted to grant a lease to Starson LLC and owner Mike Janecek to operate the two city-owned concession stands as he has for the last decade.

During a five-month-long campaign in support of Janecek to keep his lease, eatery patrons served up a lesson in fan loyalty and tenacity to commissioners during meetings, on social media and in emails.

Earlier this year city commissioners said they wanted to test the restaurant waters and see what else was available from other vendors who might operate the two facilities.

The city sought bids from other vendors and set off a firestorm of objections from beach residents who enjoyed both Paradise Grille eateries just the way they are.

At earlier meetings Janecek told commissioners, “It hurts, I spent 10 years of my life and put my heart and soul into it…I rebuilt the place.”

“We took hold of these two little concession stands and in 10 years molded and massaged them into the world class beach destinations they are today,” he told city officials in his bid package, adding there is always room for improvement and he is ready to implement changes desired by the city.

After accepting bids, the City Commission initially chose to negotiate a contract with United Park Services, Inc. which was ranked first by staff.

UPS operates the Mad Beach Snack Shack on Archibald Beach in Madeira Beach, a concession stand for Pinellas County at Fort Desoto Beach, along with Anna Maria Island and Coquina Beach concession stands for Manatee County.

Staff’s second bid choice was Barry and Kelly Streib, operators of the Brass Monkey Restaurant for the last 13 years on Eighth Avenue in Pass-A-Grille. Janecek was selected third in bid rankings.

Earlier this month, City Manager Wayne Saunders told commissioners United Park Services dropped out of contention; Commissioners decided to negotiate a contract with Janacek’s firm, which they said offered the best bid package.

At the Tuesday meeting, Mayor Al Johnson surmised UPS dropped out of contention because they wanted to devote their time to starting a new concession operation at the St. Pete Pier.

According to the contract approved Tuesday, the term of the lease with Paradise Grille is for five years, starting Aug. 31, with one additional five-year extension available upon mutual agreement of both parties.

Janacek will pay a monthly rent of $15,000, and a 3 percent increase each year.

Staff added a request to contract terms, suggested by Commissioner Ward Friszolowski, which permits the city to terminate the agreement for convenience at any time, “when it is deemed in the best interests of the City, by giving lessee at least 90 days prior written notice.”

Beach access issues discussed

In other action at Tuesday night’s meeting, City Attorney Andrew Dickman addressed a concern about beach access and placement of no trespassing signs on the sandy beach raised by residents of Silver Sands, a beachfront community at 6500 Sunset Way.

Dickman noted there is a lot of different ownership on the beach; public, private and county. Control of signs on the beach and beach management is not only a St Pete Beach problem, he added.

Some Silver Sands residents initially objected to city enacting a “customary use ordinance,” codifying the public’s customary use of beach areas, saying it could infringe on their beachfront property rights.

Dickman said the city is merely protecting the public’s rights to use the beach.

Silver Sands residents were said to have subsequently installed “no trespassing” signs on the beach in front of their condominium complex, with city commissioners asking Dickman to examine the legality of the signs.

During his presentation on beach management, the city attorney advised the Pinellas County Property appraiser’s map cannot be used to determine private or public property boundaries on the beach. Another map depicting the Florida Coastal Construction Line, connected to DEP and Florida Building Code, is a bit more suitable.

However, Dickman explained, when beach renourishment occurs all beach areas seaward of the Erosion Control Line is considered public; everything landward is private.

Dickman said he recently made several observations of the beach area in front of Silver Sands and found many “no trespassing signs,” some seaward of the erosion control line that need to be removed, because they are on the public beach area.

Signs placed north of the erosion control line need to be permitted by the city and a field permit acquired from DEP, he said.

Some signs are installed in a very flimsy manner, only six inches into the sand, and could become dangerous flying objects in a storm, he reported.

Saunders said the city will take enforcement action to make sure proper permits are filed and signs on public property or dangerous signs are removed.

Dickman advised the city to start using GPS technology to document beach access in a scientific manner.