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Lease extension for K-C’s River Stop rejected

By Staff | Feb 13, 2013

Betty Serrago tried to control her tears, but she couldn’t. She was crushed.

Moments earlier, the Cape Coral City Council voted by a 5-3 margin against extending the lease between the city-owned Yacht Club and Serrago’s K-C’s River Stop for another three years and put the property out for an request for proposals (RFP) to see if something else could go there instead.

This happened despite K-C’s supporters using up all the public input time with testimonials to the Serrago family and the small eatery that had become a symbol of the city for so many.

Serrago, who has run the business for more than 20 years, wasn’t worrying about if her business would be around after the lease runs out at the end of June, but rather if it would be open tomorrow.

“I can’t wait until June for someone to make a decision, when everything dies here. I have the best employees in the world, they should have the option of finding a job elsewhere,” Serrago said. “How could I hold on to it. It’s not fair to them.”

The lease, which was signed in 2010, was for three years, with a mutually agreed upon option for three more. However, at the council meeting Monday at City Hall, Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pohlman gave the council options to consider in regards to the property.

The options were to extend the lease, renegotiate the lease, have the city operate it as a potential revenue stream or seek other operators through a request for proposals (RFP).

Nearly everyone who spoke were in favor of keeping K-C’s as is, using glowing language when speaking of the Serragos and the place one person compared to Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

“It’s not a restaurant, it’s a symbol of everything Cape Coral is,” Jerry Charleston said.

However, Billy Jo Fuller said K-C’s was “not living up to potential” and that “they sell ball park food there,” which almost got her booed off the podium.

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said the place had too much intangible value to put it at risk.

“When I asked what intangible value of good will K-C’s had and nobody on staff could answer. I say it’s million,” Leetz said. “Let’s not be a slash-and-burn council.”

“The intangible is that it makes you feel welcome no matter where you’re from,” Councilmember Kevin McGrail said. “It’s more than about rent money.”

However, for the rest, it came back as a situation where it was a fact-finding mission and nothing more, that the RFP wouldn’t necessarily mean an end to K-C’s River Stop. They were just trying to find the value of the property.

“We have a responsibility to Cape Coral and see what the value is. It comes down to taxpayers dollars,” said Councilmember Marty McClain.

The vote to extend the lease was denied by a 5-3 vote, with Chulakes-Leetz, McGrail and Mayor John Sullivan on the losing end.

The vote to approve the RFP was 6-2, with Sullivan and Leetz against.

“It’s shameful. These people were voted in by us to give us what we want and that’s what this is about,” Carlotta Cardenas said. “When I saw the little beach and the little place, that’s where I wanted to be. It’s not all about people with money.”

“I’m pleased with the outcome. With the best interest of the city in hand, they made the right decision,” Fuller said. “It should stay what it is, but have more to offer. I think it can do better.”

As for Serrago, she took the time to put out as televised resume and to thank her supporters.

“My resume looks good. If anybody needs a person who can work 80 hours” Serrago said before she stopped, thanked everyone again and walked away.