FORT LAUDERDALE — The Oasis Cafe will be disappearing from the beach after commissioners on Tuesday voted to evict the restaurant from the city-owned property it has leased for 21 years.
The cafe, at 600 Seabreeze Blvd., owes the city more than $130,000 in past due rent and taxes. It has been operating without a lease for the past year as the owner has haggled with the city over the terms of a new deal.
Oasis comptroller Ted Sabarese said the city initially wanted to increase the rent paid from about $4,200 a month to $20,000, based on information compiled by city real estate consultant CBRE.
The Oasis Cafe is now paying about $50,000 a year in rent and has offered to double that figure to $100,000. But CBRE officials say the city can expect to get between $150,000 and $200,000 a year in rent with a new tenant and lease.
Commissioner Dean Trantalis said the city could do better, describing the cafe with its porch-swing-style booths as "not well-kept up" and "offering second-quality fare."
"It's not right that we allow this kind of establishment to continue under our lease," Trantalis said. But he was concerned that past due bills were allowed to accumulate so high before the city took action.
City Manager Lee Feldman said the city had difficulty keeping track of its rental properties and that's why he recommended and the commission approved hiring CBRE as the city's real estate consultant.
Feldman said for-lease signs posted on the Oasis Cafe property have drawn interest in the site, where southbound State Road A1A rejoins the northbound travel lanes.
"Since the sign went up that the property would be available for lease, we've had inquiries on that lease from some of the best food operators in the city," Feldman said.
No one from the Oasis Cafe spoke at the commission meeting.
On Monday, Sabarese said Oasis had invested $1.5 million in the restaurant.
"We've offered a payment plan to the city that clears this whole thing up by the summer," Sabarese said. "We hate to lose it, but we can't keep it to lose money. It's got to be a reasonable kind of number."
Sabarese said the lack of events at the nearby International Swimming Hall of Fame has cut into business. In addition, the beach's dim lighting, for the benefit of sea turtles, discourages hotel guests north of Las Olas Boulevard from venturing to the cafe, he said.
The cafe is owned by John Amodeo, who received a star on the city's Walk of Fame last year. Amodeo, who was honored for helping the beach shape a new image after its rowdy Spring Break days, has operated seven restaurants on the beach over the past 26 years.
The city will put a new lease out to bid. Those bids will be due by April 3, with the commission set to make a selection at its May 19 meeting.
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