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Pershing Square Concession Stand Remains Empty After RFP Produces Zero Bids

By Jenni Simcoe
Published: Monday, October 25, 2010, at 02:47PM
Pershing Square Cafe Space Eric Richardson [Flickr]

The bright yellow cafe space at Pershing Square has little in the way of amenities, but a recent RFP sought large commitments from an operator.

Pershing Square's bright yellow cafe space was a highlight of the park's 1994 redesign, intended to be centerpoint of six spots in the park where passersby could pick up a bite to eat.

Today it sits empty, and it looks like it will remain that way in the near future.

A request for proposal (RFP) put out by the City's Recreation & Parks Department in August to attract a concessionaire received zero bids.

"There were no proposals submitted to the RFP for Pershing Square Food and Beverage Concession. The RFP deadline has past and we are not extending the deadline," said Raymond Chang, Concessions Unit, Recreation and Parks.

That doesn't necessarily mean there was no interest, though.

“After reading the RFP my head spun on the amount of paperwork and procedure they are requiring just to get considered for the space," said Jon Toktas, owner of Arda's Cafe on 6th Street. "No wonder no one signed on."

The document required any bidder to invest a minimum of $250,000 for expansion and renovation of the cafe space, operate from 6:30am to 10pm, and be willing to be shut down up to 14 days each year for special events.

The RFP also asked for a rent proposal that is at least four percent of gross receipts produced by food and beverage sales with a minimum of $12,000 per year. “The rent they are asking for is okay, although paying four percent of gross seems a bit steep. They should allow the operator to keep his earning,” said Toktas.

At the end of five years, Recreation and Parks would maintain an option as to whether the chosen operator would be extended.

Toktas says that he’s long eyed the spot and has seen concession operators start and fail. “The space is a challenge. Anyone going in there needs to seriously consider the challenges of being open for so many hours in that park environment," he said. "For me to be in the space, I would need greater flexibility from Parks and Recreation."

What's next for the space remains up in the air. According to Chang, the deadline for RFP bids was not extended. "The concessions unit is awaiting guidance from upper management on whether we should fill the space at Pershing Square," said Chang.

Toktas wouldn’t be opposed to considering the space but says the Parks department needs to do more than write an RFP. “The department could first let local business owners who have been here know about the RFP. The people that put them together never really go out into the community of business owners who already have a clear idea of what the neighborhood could support,“ said Toktas.

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