New Beach Concessionaire Moves Forward

No one knows when — or even if 🙁 — Compo Beach will open this year.

But a key piece of summer fun edged closer to reality last night. The Planning & Zoning Commission — acting in its capacity to consider land use issues — voted unanimously in favor of a new concessionaire.

Upsilon Entertainment Group — the applicant chosen by the Parks & Recreation Department — would run the Compo food service that for over 30 years was operated by Joey Romeo. The Larchmont, New York-based company would also take over Romeo’s 2 other concessions: the Longshore golf course halfway house, and the concession by the pool.

Parks & Rec director Jen Fava describd the formal bid process. There were 36 downloads of the RFP. Eight businesses made site visits. Five submitted proposals. In addition to Upsilon’s, they came from Norwalk, Stratford, Woodbridge and Ryebrook, New York.

Fees to be paid to the town ranged from a low of $55,000 a year to a high of $100,000 or 10% of the gross revenue the first year, whichever is higher. The latter bid came from Upsilon.

The new concessionaire will take over from Joey Romeo. For over 30 years, he ran Joey’s by the Shore. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Fava said that 3 groups were interviewed by a committee of representatives from the RTM, Parks & Rec Department, Parks & Rec Commission, and Department of Public Works.

They selected Upsilon for a variety of reasons. One was those highest fees (which top out at $120,000 a year or 12% of gross revenues, whichever is higher, in the final year of the 5-year contract). An opt-in clause covers 2 additional 5-year terms.

Fava said the committee was enthusiastic about Upsilon’s previous experience, which included operations at New York’s Bryant Park, Prospect Park and Hudson River Park.

The menu would include “typical beach food,” plus “healthier options like smoothies and salads.” They would offer special food nights, like Italian cuisine, and events like cheese tastings.

The company will use biodegradable packaging, and will compost materials. They committed to hire local staffs, and sell Connecticut-based products.

“They’re very professional,” the Parks & Rec director said. “They want to be partners with us, and involved in the community.”

Joey Romeo owned much of the interior equipment. The new concessionaire will have to bring in its own. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Fava said that while many terms in the original contract were similar to those in the past, the coronavirus pandemic necessitated a rider. It covers uncertainty over starting dates for the beach, and addresses issues like partial openings.

The P&Z vote marked the first step toward town approval for Upsilon. Still ahead: the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen.

23 responses to “New Beach Concessionaire Moves Forward

  1. Wendy Cusick

    Regardless, of the bidding process I would have chosen a local restaurant vendor.
    Choosing an large unknown company just feels like a slap in the face to the residents of Westport and the surrounding local restaurant vendors living in the area.
    Reading about the fees….
    “Fees to be paid to the town ranged from a low of $55,000 a year to a high of $100,000 or 10% of the gross revenue the first year, whichever is higher. The latter bid came from Upsilon.”
    “They selected Upsilon for a variety of reasons. One was those highest fees (which top out at $120,000 a year or 12% of gross revenues, whichever is higher, in the final year of the 5-year contract).”
    (I know it’s the price of doing business and this is just my opinion and observations.)
    My first thoughts when I read those two paragraphs (posted in quotes above) makes the Westport town government and parks and Rec department look greedy.
    They saw money and didn’t even consider giving the local restaurants a chance to give it a go at the 3 concession locations.
    I’m disappointed in their decision.

    • Bill Strittmatter

      “Regardless, of the bidding process I would have chosen a local restaurant vendor.”

      SMH. 5 bidders…none of them from Westport.

      So exactly how would your process to chose a local restaurant have worked? “I know you didn’t bid but we’ve decided to award you the concession”? On what terms? “Doesn’t matter that you weren’t interested..tag you’re it”?

      Followed, of course, by screaming about no-bid contracts, favoritism and/or insinuation of payoffs?

  2. Sal Liccione

    I have to tell I am I put my comment on record o just hope peaple contact bof and bos o am very unhappy today with the planning and zoning I don’t want here from planning and zoning or board of finance or Jin Marpe and Jen tookerr to buy local since mrs tooker ok or Mrs Kane I sent emails and others have I no am on rtm I never saw the rfp and I am on parks and recreation I might be the chair that saw it ask Jim Marpe and bof plese support local don’t ask others to do it if you won’t ok thanks Jim. Marpe

    • Edward Bonaham

      If you’re going to go on public record, At least make it understandable and readable and not this enigma of jargon. My eyes hurt.

  3. Fred Roberts

    Where are the bid results publicly posted? The bidding section of the town website has no reference to this bid. Where is the transparency on this and other town bids?

  4. didn’t someone post some basic due diligence on 06880 that showed this upsilon entity to be questionable? IIRC, various tax liens dating back many years. how is someone that is not financially sound even allowed to be in the running, let alone chosen?!

  5. India van Voorhees

    They’ve missed the whole point.
    Now the casual, beachy feel will be upscale? “Italian cuisine”? “Cheese tastings?”
    I’m so depressed. This is just awful.

    • Mark Bachmann

      I’m just happy they’re getting someone in there, but I agree with your sentiment about the desireabiility of maintaining the “casual, beachy feel” to the place – hopefully the new concessionaire will take note.

  6. Sounds like the actual taste of the food was never part of the selection process. The fact that Upsilon has committed to pay more $ off the top to the town will result in either higher prices or lower quality food – it seems unlikely they will be taking lower profits for themselves to make the numbers work.

  7. Mark Bachmann

    I’m not quite sure why a decision as relatively straightforward as this requires so much bureaucracy and apparent anxiety, but it’s good news nonetheless. I’ll be saying my prayers that they can open this season.

  8. Don Bergmann

    I think it worth acknowledging that our Town bodies, P&Z, BoF, BoE, RTM and BoS continue to function during these difficult times. Public input is difficult, but all are trying. “06880′, with its ease of comments is also playing an important role. Thanks Dan.
    Don Bergmann

  9. Cathy Walsh P&Z Commission

    Last night we did an 8-24 review which is a recommendation to the first selectman. The P&Z reviewed the lease and the selection process of the new concessionaire. We spent considerable time writing into the lease the fact that we want a low key beachy and inexpensive menu similar to Joey’s. We recognize how important that is for all of us. Is there room for some upscale and and different choices? Yes, for sure , but the heart of the business will remain the same. We did some other lease adjustments that codified that everything will comply with P&Z regs. including signage and certain terms of lease. Any proposed modifications to the structure must come back to P&Z.

    Along with the lease discussion, we also had a very long discussion on financial due diligence and vendor selection. We had 5 applicants and they interviewed the 3 highest bidders (this is normal) Jen Fava assured us that the Finance Dept did D&B Checks, called credit references and business references. This part of the equation is outside of our authority, but we did discuss it and know that the BOF / Finance Dept/ BOS will handle as the well functioning business that is our Town Government.

    We are a tough commission comprised of 3 attorney’s and 4 very solid and experienced business people. We are all well versed in commercial leases and finance and are not shy about asking the hard questions. We did a great job for you last night, We listened to and read your concerns and discussed the issues that were brought forward by members of the public. I’m satisfied with the answers received. All 7 of us were satisfied. Sorry- I just get so ticked off with so much negative commenting about everything that happens in this town, especially on another rainy day. Hopefully we can all have a hot dog together at the beach this summer and find another issue to get all torn up about.

    • India van Voorhees

      Thank you for all the work you do on behalf of our town.
      But just one little note: when you ask if there’s room for some upscale choices? My answer is “no”. I’m not sure why that would even be a consideration for a beach concession. We’ve got upscale all over Westport. The beach is the one place where we can just be barefoot and grab some fried clams in a paper container and not have to be fussy or elite.
      I’ll try to keep an open mind. If they schedule their cheese tasting events etc. for after dark, maybe it won’t be so bad. (sigh)

    • joshua stein

      DnB, checking credit/business references, is too high level. How about doing some lower level due diligence? such as looking into liens and law suits? As mentioned, another 06880 poster found significant tax liens unpaid fairly easily. To me that says the entity is in bad financial shape, might not be truth worthy, etc.

      • It’s worth looking at the company’s website, as well. They are not a restaurant or food service company, but a “Project development, marketing, hospitality, and production firm specializing in public-private partnerships and the use of public spaces and real estate for iconic attractions, sponsor activations, events, consumer engagement, temporary retail, and other revenue generating opportunities.”

        In other words, they specialize in making deals with deep pocket entities, no doubt with a very sophisticated marketing pitch, but when it comes to making the burgers, they hire that out to someone else.

        How it’s possible to get a better deal by hiring an event marketing company as the middleman between the town and the actual food service escapes me.

        Maybe Upsilon thinks they can support their higher bid by getting a corporate sponsor, a la their “Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park” (The Athleta Juice Bar at Compo Beach”) but a local beach snack bar is not exactly a world class branding venue, especially when Westport Park & Rec is limiting attendance mostly to town residents by jacking up fees for Westonites and other untermenschen.

        • I suspect that, after a few months of losses, the firm will push for permission to sell beer and wine — and perhaps to hold some sort of youth oriented event, like a “Corona Beer Beach Volleyball Contest” featuring the “Victoria’s Secret Bikini Models.”

    • Wendy Cusick

      Being attorneys and solid business people versed in leases and finances means nothing if you don’t understand the both sides of the business in this case the food business.
      It’s an empty meaningless statement that says you don’t care about the people that will using these facilities. It just means you want to get the most money from a particular vendor.
      I see you call out comments that point out reality and stated facts as negative.
      These aren’t negative. If you call them negative then you’re in the wrong business and postion.
      These comments are showing the Parks and Rec, Board of Finance, RTM and other town government bodies what real life is outside the bubble.

  10. Wendy Cusick

    Two locals filled all the necessary paperwork to be part of the bidding process.
    1) Louis Promuto who runs Valentino’s and Sunset Grille in Norwalk and is a partner with Eric Johnson who runs Jr’s Deli and Grille in Westport
    2) Hunter King who ran King’s Kitchen in Southport. Hunter made a couple comments on the first posting about the concession stand and many were pleased with the food and prices he offered while running Southport beach stand.
    I’m more familiar with Jr’s and his menu which would have worked well at all beach.
    It seems from what I have gathered, these two weren’t even considered and given a chance. What happened to Westport? The working class Westport? Westport that used to give the little guy a fighting chance is apparently gone….
    Now it’s just all about money.
    Also promoting being an attorney seems empty and means nothing if you don’t understand the food business or the people who will be using these facilities.
    Now in this current situation we’re all dealing with COVID-19, physical distancing and regular everyday businesses not being open. Which means people will have less money to contribute to the local economy. It’s a domino effect.
    This has and will change the dynamic on how businesses will run in the future.
    At this time, there’s issue with the food getting from point A to point B. You all notice that grocery stores have limits or are totally out of certain meats, poultry, produce, canned goods, frozen food products and paper cleaning products and many may have to pay a higher price to purchase these items when they come available due to supply and demand. Higher demand less product translates to higher ticket prices on food. The food is there, it just can’t get processed to be delivered to grocery stores which also will affect restaurants that are still operating.
    How much are beach goers willing to pay for food at the concession stand when the company or person that runs it has to raise it’s prices to cover food cost, payroll of people preparing the food, food containers (biodegradable which is more expensive), insurance, lease agreements and fees etc etc to the town of Westport?
    The Parks and Rec department might have raised the bar to high to meet the fees and lease agreement that will translate into higher food prices the customer pays.
    Let’s me throw this out there too. The residents of Westport and surrounding land locked communities that also use the beach are concerned about paying their property taxes, mortgages, rents, utility and other bills that come due plus continuing to put food on their table to feed their families.
    They certainly will not be paying the high price for a beach sticker either.
    They will not be purchasing high priced food from a concession stand that’s out of state. They will probably bring food to the beach with them from home or one of the local places. I do believe if a local establishment were choosen they would be willing to pay the price and support them.
    How can an out of state company that has tax liens etc which others have found evidence online have a credible line of credit? This is questionable and should be a concern to Parks and Rec about this company paying it’s bills and lease agreement.

  11. Dorothy Broadman

    Thanks to Westport public servants (volunteer and professional) for continuing to take care of our town, especially through this difficult time. I hope you know that social media commenters are generally negative and non-representative of the community. Please know that you are appreciated.

  12. Wendy Cusick

    Westport government just approved this out of state company.
    I don’t know….
    I still think it was a poorest choice.
    I wonder what they will charge for food to pay the lease, payroll, insurance, containers and local sourced food (which is always higher). Also because of limited capacity at the beach the full sales will not be there.
    Hmmm, we will see…. 🤔

    • Bill Strittmatter

      I’m very confused. You complain that the selected vendor was not local (not that any of the bidders were actually from Westport) but then worry about the prices they might charge because they might, gasp, use “local sourced food (which is always higher)”.

      So hiring local contractor is good but buying local food is bad? Ummm…OK.

    • I believe the contract contains a contingency clause based on COVID factors for this summer.