UPDATE: News 3 has learned, the vote on the status of the North Beach Bar and Grill has been taken off the agenda of Tybee Island’s city council meeting for Thursday night.
According to a council member, the mayor removed it from the agenda due to allegations owners of the grill have made about business practices of the those who were looking to win the city bid on the space.
The city will now conduct an investigation on whether they need to re-start the bidding process.
TYBEE ISLAND, Ga (WSAV) – Until this year it’s been simple for Tybee leaders and the operators at North Beach Bar and Grill when the lease was ending. When that time came to re-sign a lease all anyone needed was a guarantee rent would be paid.
The grill had some problems during the recession that questioned if it could continue or not, but the lease was renewed and it continued. Since the lease was given in 2010, state law has been enacted that now changes everything according to city leaders.
“The decision they have right now is not the correct decision you know it’s not a business thing it’s a Tybee thing,” says Rob Frame a manager over at North Beach Bar and Grill.
Behind the controversy is the measure citizens of Tybee believe the city is giving to the efforts of one man, George Spriggs, over the twenty three years he spent transforming Tybee’s north beach. Now all of that could end this week at Tybee Island city council, but the city says it was not a rushed decision, in fact it came after a summer long vetting process.
“We were very surprised that this was the way the process had to go, but once we saw the law, the attorney told us about it this was the direction we needed to go and we had to, we didn’t really have a choice,” says councilwoman Wanda Doyle.
For the first time ever Tybee Island city leaders have to operate under a new state law. North Beach Bar and Grill is city owned and the law, dating back to 2013, requires them to publicly offer the lease for bid out to the community because it will end in 2017.
“It’s going to be a tough one but I’m sure we will figure it out,” says Doyle.
Since April, the city has held meetings and interviews with the current operators and another bidder who owns several eateries around the island. The interviews did not involve council members but a three person committee. That committee was comprised of the city manager, city finance director as well as the city zoning director.
City council members tell us they conducted the interviews separately and completed a RFP matrix. That rated the two groups for whom would be the best option to grant the lease. One councilman confirms to News 3 it was slightly contrary to how other cities send out bids with the simple asking price for the lease and that’s all.
“We had two council meetings where anyone could have come up behind that microphone and talked to us about things; if they didn’t like what was in the RFP, if they didn’t like the points, or the process,” Doyle adds.
It is a process islanders have called flawed as have the current operators pointing to the matrix criteria regarding “Monthly amount paid to City” for the space. One owner told News 3 it came down to money in his opinion.
The current owners were given a much lower score, 37, than the competing bidder who received a 90 in that category. In fact, the current owners scored higher on a majority of the of the six criterion used in the matrix, but came up short 224 to 270.
Council woman Doyle says it’s been a stressful process but in the end it will come down to what the city attorney recommends.
“There are things out there saying that I’ve said it’s a done deal, well as I told you earlier today nothing is ever a done deal.”
Whoever the city approves of Thursday, there is a guarantee the city gave to the public that the new renter will have to continue operating the space as a bar and grill for visitors and local on Tybee’s north beach.