There could be a new operator for the popular boardwalk concessions come summer 2021. On November 1, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation put out a Request for Proposals for a company to manage the Beach 86th, Beach 97th and Beach 106th concessions under a 15-year term. The RFP is open to all interested parties, but those behind the Rockaway Beach Club, the group that has run the concessions for the past nine summers, is hoping to be the one to keep the party going.
The Rockaway Beach Club has been running the three major boardwalk concessions since they took over in 2011. They transformed each concession into colorful beachside oases, complete with a variety of diverse food choices, bars serving up delicious beer and wine options, retail space and music every weekend, drawing record crowds to the Rockaway Beach area each summer. From Rippers to Low Tide to Caracas, the concessions keep people coming back for more. However, summer 2020 could be their last.
With Parks’ new RFP, the concessions are now fair game. Anyone can throw their hat into the ring and have the opportunity to become the next concession operator to begin in summer 2021. The RFP calls for the someone to take over the renovation, operation, and maintenance of the three outdoor concessions, one beach shop, and the operation of up to 20 satellite units along the beach and boardwalk.
The RFP gives a heads up to operators about factors that could impact business within the coming years, mainly, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to install coastal protection measures along the beach and boardwalk. These measures, expected to begin in 2020, include a taller, fortified sand dune, which will require the construction of new ramps and stairs to access the beach, widening of the beach and the construction of new groins. The project could take three to four years, so concessionaires are warned of potential impacts this could have on beach crowds and business.
The RFP provides financial information about the current concessionaire for others to consider as the proposer must provide a guaranteed annual flat fee that they will pay to the Parks Department for use of their facilities, with at least a 5% increase each year of operation. For the current operator, in 2016, their gross receipt totaled $3,285,881.40 and their fee to Parks was $91,012. In 2017, their gross receipt was $3,738,502.64 and their fee was $98,293. In 2018, their gross receipt totaled $3,542,298.33 and their fee was $106,156.
In addition to providing food, beverages and fun, the operator would have many responsibilities when it comes to the buildings. “Parks anticipates a substantial investment from the concessionaire,” the RFP says regarding capital improvements. Additionally, “The concessionaire will be required, at its sole cost and expense (or through arrangements with third parties), to develop, operate, and maintain the Licensed Premises in good and safe condition and in accordance with industry standards. This includes, but is not limited to, the maintenance and repair of the entire Licensed Premises, all interior and exterior structures, building systems, utility systems and connections, sewer systems and connections, equipment, lighting, sidewalks, paved areas, vaults, gutters, curbs, and fixtures.”
The concessionaire will also need to have their bases covered. Meaning—insurance. The concessionaire will be expected to cover everything from Commercial General Liability insurance, to Worker’s Compensation, Employer’s Liability and Disability Benefits Insurance and even Flood Insurance for the buildings.
When it comes to the satellite units or mobile vendors, the concessionaire will be able to have up to 20 mobile food units, temporary popup kiosks, and beach hawkers, between Beach 49th and Beach 149th, on the boardwalk, or on the beach for beach hawkers, which will be limited to selling food and non-alcoholic beverages. However, the satellite locations will need to be approved. Some pre-approved locations include Beach 59th, 68th and 73rd, near playground areas.
The 49-page RFP outlines plenty of other requirements for potential concessionaires, which can make the proposal process daunting for anyone who hasn’t been through it before. However, Maribel Araujo, the head of Rockaway Beach Club, and her team of concessionaires are ready to take on the challenge of reapplying to keep the concessions going.
“We have already been working on it. We’ve been getting ourselves together as a group and trying to bring together our ideas and drafting a proposal,” Araujo said. “We’re definitely committed to staying. By now, most of us live in Rockaway and we’d love to keep up the work and keep improving and offering more of a variety of food and developing more mobile vending so people can have different foods in different areas of the boardwalk.”
In anticipation of the RFP being released, the Rockaway Beach Club got a head start during the summer by putting out petitions for visitors to sign to keep them as the concessions operator, to show how much support they have. According to Araujo, that support was overwhelming. “We basically started passing the petition around to show proof that the community wants us working for them. A majority of people have shown their support and shown that they’re happy with the work that we’ve done, so we started collecting signatures to add to our proposal to show that we already have the community support behind us,” Araujo said, adding that local civic associations also plan on providing letters of support.
However, Araujo acknowledges that anything can happen. “It’s fair game. People might think that big corporations can’t apply. But they can. It’s open to anyone and anything. That could mean something like Starbucks can come in,” she said. “But we’re not thinking about who can come and who we might be up against. It’s more about putting together a really strong proposal. With the experience we have and already being there for 10 years, we’re hoping for the best.”
As the operator will likely be chosen before summer 2020, Araujo is hoping next summer will be a reason to celebrate instead a season of mourning. “We’re just hoping that for summer 2020, we’re going to be super excited to be there, knowing that we’re going to go from one term to the other. We’re hoping it’s not going to be a sad summer for us,” she said.
All proposals must be received by 2 p.m. on Friday, December 13. All interested proposers have an opportunity to tour the concessions properties on Wednesday, November 20 at noon, starting at the Beach 86th concession. Interviews with proposers will be conducted the week of January 6, 2020. All of the proposals will be reviewed by a selections committee of at least three Parks or other City employees. They will make their decision based on the best overall submission based on the criteria in the RFP.