ATLANTIC CITY — As part of its attempt to follow state and federal park rules at Gardner's Basin, the city put out to bid rental contracts for Back Bay Ale House and Gilchrist Restaurant and will now get two- to three- times the rents previously charged.
"We were instructed we had to put out restaurants to bid," said Assistant City Solicitor Carl Timbers at a news conference Tuesday. "We found out we were not making anywhere near the amount of rent we should have been making. That's a requirement under (state law)."
The same operators will stay and rent will increase at Back Bay Ale House from $40,000 a year under the old contract to $130,509 in the first year of a new three-year contract, with options for two more years. In the third year, it will increase to $135,751, and if options are taken in the fifth year, it will increase to $141,267.13.
Gilchrist rent will increase from $30,000 a year to $60,000 in the first year, and to $62,529 in the third year. If options are taken, Gilchrist will pay $65,056 in the fifth year, according to the city.
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Back Bay Ale House is a full-service restaurant with a liquor license, and Gilchrist serves breakfast and lunch.
"You have to take into consideration the taxpayers here," said Stockton business professor Michael Busler. "I'm glad they put it out for bid. I applaud the city."
The only way to find out the price someone is willing to pay is solicit bids, Busler said, especially in a seasonal economy like Atlantic City's where summer and shoulder seasons can be extremely busy but winters dead.
"We don't know what their revenues are, but they do," Busler said. "It sounds like Back Bay Ale House has gotten a pretty good deal these last number of years."
The city has to walk a fine line between satisfying taxpayers and keeping visitors to Gardner's Basin happy, he said.
"The Ale House draws boaters," Busler said. "You want restaurants there."
Mayor Marty Small Sr. called the news conference Tuesday to explain "for the final time" why the Fish Heads food truck was removed from its space on the waterfront at Gardner's Basin.
He called Back Bay Ale House the face of Gardner's Basin for the last 15 years.
Business Administrator Anthony Swan has said Fish Heads had been paying the city $2,500 a month during the four-month summer season to operate from the waterfront location.
Small and other city officials said it was state Green Acres and federal Land and Water Conservation Fund rules that required the city to remove Fish Heads from the site because food trucks are not allowed to be permanently located there under their rules. State and federal open space funds were used to create the park at Gardner’s Basin in the 1970s.
City officials also said the city's management of Gardner's Basin under previous administrations has not been in compliance with state Green Acres and federal National Park Service rules over other issues as well.
"Nobody (at NPS and DEP) knew about the aquarium," said Swan, explaining that permission was never given before the structure was built.
Permission was also not sought to build a parking lot or a road into the basin.
REPORTER: Michelle Brunetti Post