By a 4-3 split vote, the City Council for the California town selected the owner of a now-closed coffee shop and eatery to operate the Point Pinos Grill at the city-owned public course, despite the fact that it was offering only 4% of gross sales as rent, vs. a second bidder that proposed to pay 8%. The city staff favored the winning bidder’s goal to create a “hip and cool” location in recommending its selection, but others expressed concerns about its past business practices.
A back-and-forth among members of the Pacific Grove (Calif.) City Council ended in a 4-3 split vote on October 7th to award a concession contract to operate the Point Pinos Grill at the Pacific Grove Golf Links to the owner of Crema, a now-closed coffee shop and eatery in the city, the Monterey (Calif.) Herald reported. The business entity is called La Creme Hospitality, according to a staff report provided to the council.
Technically, three companies were vying for the contract, the Herald reported, but the wrangling came down to two businesses: La Creme and Ardent Culinaire Inc., the Grill’s current operator. The golf course and the clubhouse where the new operation will go are owned by the city. Callers into the virtual meeting were fairly evenly split in supporting one business or the other, according to the Herald.
One of the issues the council members debated was the terms of the contract, the Herald reported. Both business proposals included a percentage of gross sales. Ardent offered the city 8% of gross sales as rent, while La Creme offered just half that amount.
Questions arose over why city staff—Management Analyst Haroon Noori, Administrative Services Director Tori Hannah and City Manager Ben Harvey—would award the contract to the applicant that would pay the least to the city, the Herald reported. Harvey and Noori explained that La Creme had attributes that included “unique qualifications and vision statement.” The staff report also included the operator’s goals of creating a “hip and cool” location. But some council members stumbled over what those descriptions meant as contributing factors to a selection process, and instead focused on the financial element.
“Why reduce the rent by 50% for one applicant?” Councilwoman Jenny McAdams asked. “That doesn’t make sense. We are not in the business of supplementing revenues.”
McAdams and some callers alluded to La Creme’s business practices that gave them pause, the Heraldreported. Accusations of not paying workers on time were leveled during the public-comment period. The California Employment Development Department has placed at least 14 tax liens on La Creme Monterey between the years of 2014 and March of this year, according to its public records.
“I’m not endorsing business practices that are not in line with my values on how to treat hospitality workers,” McAdams said.
But the majority of council members said the review process thoroughly examined both businesses and arrived at the decision that La Creme was the best fit for the concession contract, the Herald reported.
“The superior proposal was the one received from La Creme,” Harvey said. “It’s important to know that there were other factors in the decision that weren’t just revenue. Service and experience were also considered.”
Pacific Grove Mayor Bill Peake said much of La Creme’s proposal was “aspirational” and that the proposal was filled with “flowery language,” the Herald reported.
“Staff likes Creme better than Ardent, and because of that he wants us to accept lower rent,” Peake said during the meeting, adding that much in the proposal included “intangibles.”
Councilwoman Cynthia Garfield likened the opposition to students turning in term papers that weren’t very good and then wanting to write them over again after the deadline passed, the Herald reported. She said she had confidence in the proposal and review process.
“People will be sad, upset, distraught, but it is a good process,” Garfield said.
Councilman Joe Amelio, Nick Smith and Amy Tomlinson agreed. “Staff has done the analysis,” Smith said. “We have to trust that staff did their job.”