Village Council to consider a deal for restaurant at Pinecrest Gardens

Pinecrest Village Council members could vote as soon as Tuesday on a contract to bring a luxury restaurant to Pinecrest Gardens.

After months of negotiating, village staff has reached a tentative deal with a company owned by restaurateur Lalo Durazo and attorney Scott Silver.

Mayor Cindy Lerner has pointed to a restaurant as a way to help pay the cost of caring for the gardens while bringing a new amenity to the village.

Under the proposed agreement, the village would spend $450,000 and the tenant would spend $750,000 to renovate the gardens’ Cypress Hall for use as a restaurant.

The tenant’s base rent will be $122,000 per year, with 2 percent annual increases starting the second year. The tenant also will pay a quarterly percentage rent equal to 6 percent of the restaurant’s gross revenue.

The lease term is 10 years with the option to renew for up to eight additional years.

In November 2012, village voters agreed to change the village charter to allow Cypress Hall to be leased for more than 5 years.

But before the space can be transformed into what Durazo and Silver hope to be a luxury dining experience, the Florida Communities Trust must approve the agreement. The trust is helping the city borrow money for the project.

The tenants will gain possession of the property 30 days after FCT approval, and the restaurant must be completed no later than 13 months after the possession date.

The restaurant is expected to have a maximum of 170 seats and its hours of operation will be uniform with park hours, according to Lillian M. Arango, a lawyer handling the deal for the village. That last point is surprising because the park closes at 5 p.m. in winter and 6 p.m. in summer, a time when most restaurants would barely have started their dinner service.

The village allocated $800,000 in this year’s budget for the project, of which $450,000 will aid the build-out of the restaurant. The rest will go toward renovations to the gardens’ main entrance, an outdoor wooden deck that will be adjacent to the restaurant, and an upgrade to the facility’s septic tank.

The cost to the tenants for the restaurant’s build-out will be $750,000 plus $150,000 for start-up reserves, which is guaranteed by an irrevocable letter of credit, as is the tenants’ first year of rent.

While village leaders say the community is in favor of a restaurant at the gardens, some neighbors are concerned about the scale and type of restaurant it will be.

Concerns that have been shared with council members and village staff include an increase in banquet-style events, parking woes that impact neighboring communities and the possibility that alcohol sales can lead to drunk driving down the village’s canopied streets, which tend to be very dark at night.

Regarding the alcohol sales, Village Manager Yocelyn Galiano Gomez said that the restaurant does intend to sell alcohol because it will not be subject to the restrictions that parties on the park’s property are subject to.

Parties and events that take place outside the leased restaurant space must abide by the village’s alcohol covenant. It states that no more than four council-approved nighttime parties where alcoholic beverages are served can occur each year.

Yet Angel Gallinal, a resident who lives one block away from the gardens, is concerned that the restaurant will rely on catered events throughout the Pinecrest Gardens complex for revenue.

“The only way to make the money is by renting parts of the complex,” said Gallinal. “That’s different from what the voters approved. The reason Parrot Jungle left was to prevent this from happening; residents didn’t want a banquet space.”

But Galiano Gomez said events will take place the same way as now. If the tenants would like to rent complex space for events, they will have to go through the same process as the general public.

Pinecrest Gardens used to be the site of Parrot Jungle, a roadside attraction since 1936. But the number of tourists who traveled to the park dwindled during the 1980s and ‘90s, and new owners proposed a banquet hall on the site, which neighbors adamantly opposed. The matter was settled when the village acquired the site in 2002.

But with 22 acres of rare plants, the gardens are expensive to maintain. For the 2011-12 budget year, they lost about $1.2 million.

The council will review the contract at a meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, followed by a vote at the regular council meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Pinecrest Municipal Center, 12645 Pinecrest Parkway.

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