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At the January 25th Coral Gables City Commission meeting, the Commission discussed the future of the Coral Gables Country Club and the location of Burger Bob’s.
Both locations had Request for Proposals (RFPs) done for them at the end of December and both yielded one familiar suitor, Barreto Investments. Following Gables Insider‘s article about the City Manager withholding public records about the RFP and proposal from residents, Barreto Group withdrew both bids leaving the City without a suitor for the Country Club and two potential suitors for Burger Bob’s.
The question on the minds of many was, what would happen to these two iconic locations in the heart of historic Coral Gables?
Coral Gables Country Club
The Coral Gables Country Club was on the Commission’s agenda, as the City Manager had been seeking the Commission’s blessing to negotiate a contract with Barreto Investments for the management of the Country Club. However, with Barreto Investments withdrawal, there was no such blessing to be given.
Instead, the Commission took the opportunity to publicly discuss the future of the Club in the Sunshine.
The City Manager stated that the proposal from Barreto Investments was an interesting proposal. He said the backup plan has always been for Community Recreation to take the facility over. The proposal, which was withheld from residents, according to the Manager would have brought $4.5 million in improvements to the facility. The Mayor assured residents that there will not be a restaurant or a parking garage in that location. He said he wants a family atmosphere. Events that are currently scheduled will be honored. “There will be a smooth transition.” The gym will not be closed, nor will Liberty Caffé. He also also asked that there be public comment in the process. The idea is to return to a country club concept.
Commissioner Rhonda Anderson stated that she wanted to ensure that the Country Club was open to everyone, not just those who could afford it. A concern residents had with the original proposal from Barreto Investments which would have made the Country Club unaffordable for most.
Commissioner Kirk R. Menendez asked that the Community Recreation Department ensure that financing for necessary repairs be included in the request for the potential parks referendum.
Community Recreation Department Director Fred Couceyro expressed that he has full faith in his team’s ability to run this operation. His plan is to have Assistant Director Carolina Vester manage the operation.
The Commission voted to instruct the City Manager to formulate a plan to have the Community Recreation Department takeover the management of the Coral Gables Country Club after the current lease ends.
As Gables Insider had reported, Burger Bob’s closed its doors on January 16th, two-and-a-half months before the scheduled end of its negotiated contract extension.
At the moment, the City is working on plans to renovate the golf pro-shop for the Granada Golf Course. They will be placing impact glass windows and have decided to replace the grease traps for Bob’s.
The Mayor wants to see the space open and not closed for two years. Something similar to the Surf Side Diner in Palm Beach. He expressed his interest in the City running it as well.
Commissioner Menendez expressed his interest in this establishment keeping a hometown feel with quality food and quality service.
Vice Mayor Mena asked for the Manager to address the proposals received and how they are deficient from the market value. The Manager stated that it would cost the City $400,000 to $600,000 to make the necessary updates to the space. Asset Manager Zeida Sardinas explained that there have been three RFPs for this space thus far. The last one closed on January 10th. She stated that they still have not fully reviewed the proposals, but the two remaining ones are preliminarily not considered satisfactory.
The Mayor would like for the City to consider hiring an operator for that space. Someone who has the experience and has been there for over 20 years and the City maintains control. Without naming names, the Mayor was obviously referring to Rita Tennyson, longtime Burger Bob’s employee who had submitted a bid with the support and financial commitment of many members of the community.
The Vice Mayor made it clear that the Country Club and Burger Bob’s are two different situations, pointing out that the Country Club tenant signed an agreement to end their lease while employing legal counsel. He does not want to change the Country Club or change what is there, but he will not agree to working with the current tenant.
Commissioner Fors expressed that he would like to hear more about the Mayor’s concept, and that it would be ideal that the person who runs the operation continues to call it Burger Bob’s. With regards to tenant build-outs, there may be a requirement for some upfront funds to offset some of the costs.
The Commission voted to continue and finalize the RFP and for staff to bring back their recommendation to the Commission, while at the same time formulate a plan and present the Commission with an option where the City does the necessary build out and finds someone who would lease the space. This will come back at the first Commission meeting in March.