The search is again underway for a vendor to run the snack bar inside Gallo Ice Arena.
The most-recent tenant, The Wheelhouse Café, has asked for and been granted permission to cancel its current lease.
The request to cancel was addressed by the Bourne Recreation Authority during its meeting on July 22. The board of directors for the authority approved unanimously a motion to let The Wheelhouse Café out of the lease.
Board members recognized it was impossible to run a business located in the ice arena when the rink was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rink manager John Hickey told the board he had a conversation with Wheelhouse co-owner William Ferreira about the virus situation and its impact on his business.
“Billy was going to try and do everything to make it possible to work,” Mr. Hickey said. “He worked on it for a few weeks and tried to see if he could do it on his own. He figured he couldn’t do it.”
In a letter to the recreation authority dated July 4, Mr. Ferreira said he and his business partner, Robert Weekes, “are financially exhausted without an ability to recover the crippling losses caused by the shutdown of the Gallo Ice Arena.”
The letter further stated Mr. Weekes has health conditions that make him “an extremely high-risk individual” for contracting the virus. Mr. Weekes cannot risk his health by working in an environment such as a public ice arena, the letter said.
“Additionally, the uncertainty of future COVID shutdowns and further restrictions have resulted in an untenable environment for a business that relies on large crowds to make a profit,” the letter said.
Board chairman Gregory A. Folino noted The Wheelhouse owed the recreation authority two months’ rent. At $1,050 per month, the company owed $2,100, Mr. Folino said.
Mr. Ferreira and Mr. Weekes have operated the Gallo Ice Arena snack bar since late 2018. The Wheelhouse replaced Sam’s Snack Bar, which was operated for more than a decade by Thomas F. Welch. Mr. Welch suffered a stroke, which forced the business to shut down in March 2018.
In its letter requesting cancellation of the lease, The Wheelhouse said it was leaving behind several large pieces of equipment, including a new deep fryer, a coffee maker and two freezers. The value of the equipment The Wheelhouse left behind is approximately $2,000, Mr. Folino said.
Member W. Curt Duane suggested the authority accept the equipment in lieu of the rent. Mr. Duane said he feels bad for The Wheelhouse, which he felt had done a good job operating the snack bar, and he is sorry to see it go.
“But I understand why they have to go, and if they’re going to leave $2,000, I’d just as soon wash $2,000 and get out of it,” he said.
Member John Coughlin concurred. Mr. Coughlin said, given issues and restrictions resulting from the virus, the authority cannot live up to its end of the lease agreement. The arena remains closed for the foreseeable future, preventing The Wheelhouse from conducting business.
“It seems to me that they’re being quite specific that they want out of this legally,” he said. “I don’t think we can hold them to it anyway, because we cannot bring people into the rink so that they can sell any of their product.”
The board voted unanimously to let The Wheelhouse out of its lease and to forgive the two months’ rent the company owed in lieu of accepting the equipment left behind.
The board then voted on whether to permit recreation authority general manager Barry H. Johnson to reissue the request for proposal in an effort to secure a new vendor for the snack bar. Member Jane Dumas-Otis questioned whether the board was “jumping the gun” by considering the reissue of the request, since no one can do business while the rink is shut down.
“I think we need to wait. No one’s there to eat anyway. They have their exercise or whatever they’re doing and they go home,” she said.
Mr. Folino said it was important for the recreation authority to begin the process of selecting a new vendor. He noted that Mr. Johnson said it will take four to six weeks to go through the bidding process. Mr. Folino suggested starting the search process, “and then we can always rein it back in depending on where we are,” relative to the pandemic.
Mr. Coughlin agreed a lot of uncertainty surrounds the virus and what restrictions will be in place at any given time. He said the uncertainty extends to high school fall and winter sports, which includes hockey, a big part of the rink’s usage. He also agreed with Mr. Folino and Mr. Duane about getting the search underway sooner rather than later.
“I’m for getting the process started. We can then work with these people and treat everybody fairly,” he said.
Members voted unanimously in favor of Mr. Johnson issuing the request for proposal as soon as possible.