Bellport residents want officials to explore options for catering hall operator at village country club
Some Bellport residents are questioning a proposed lease extension for the operator of the catering service at the village-owned Bellport Country Club.
Mayor Ray Fell told Newsday the 25-year lease would raise rent 3% annually and require the operator, South Country Caterers, to make about $1 million worth of repairs to the facility. The current lease expires in 2027, he said.
But some residents want officials to explore other options, saying the village might be able to get a better deal from another vendor.
“This should not be a posh deal for the caterer," Thomas Schultz, 56, an art dealer and environmental activist, told Newsday on Tuesday. "We want this caterer to succeed … but maybe there are other caterers that can do a better job.”
Another resident, Maureen Veitch, 64, said the village should study rents at similar facilities and seek an appraisal of the property.
“I believe that would help the village understand what the asset would be valued at," she told Newsday. "If you were selling your house, would you try to find comparables?”
More than 100 residents attended a village board meeting Monday night at which the board had planned to vote on the deal. Instead, the board voted 4-0 to postpone the vote, said Fell, adding he doesn't vote unless it's to break a tie.
“The board felt as though they wanted to digest all of the comments that they heard and think about them before they made a final decision," Fell said. "I think that was the smart thing to do.”
He said the board has not set a new date to vote on the proposed lease.
Schultz said he was pleased the vote was postponed.
“At the very least, we were able to convince the majority of the board to pause this process,” he said.
South Country Caterers pays about $200,000 in annual rent, which would rise to $500,000 by the time the new deal expires in 2052, Fell said, adding the rent increase would take effect "immediately" after the village board approves the new deal.
He said the village is allowed to extend the current lease without seeking bids from other caterers. South Country has catered weddings, parties and other events at the club since signing the current 25-year lease in 2002, he said.
“We’ve worked with them for 20 years," Fell said. "We know what to expect … and we’re happy with what they do.”
Fell said South Country agreed to pay $235,000 in back rent as part of the lease renewal, resolving a dispute stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the catering business to close for 18 months.
South Country officials did not return a call for comment.
The mayor said South Country also agreed to repair the 35-year-old catering hall's roof and electrical system.
“We know that there is a million dollars worth of work that has to be done in that building. They would do it all," Fell said. "It wouldn’t cost the taxpayers one penny.”
Bellport officials and residents are debating the merits of a lease extension for South Country Caterers, which runs the catering hall at village-owned Bellport Country Club. The current lease expires in 2027. Here are major provisions of the proposed lease:
25 years, starting 2027 and ending 2052
3%: Annual rent increase
$500,000: Anticipated annual rent in the lease's final year
$1 million: Estimated repairs to be made by South Country Caterers
$235,000: Back rent to be paid by SouthCountry Caterers
SOURCE: Bellport Mayor Ray Fell