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Spring Café awarded five-year contract to operate at Como Pavilion

Posted on 08 March 2018 by Calvin

Visitors to Como Park and its economic pavilion will enjoy a new dining option. And everyone is hoping that with the new operator, the third time is the charm.
On Feb. 14, the St. Paul City Council approved a 23-page contract with O’Reilly Custom 3 LLC to operate the pavilion, 1360 Lexington Pkwy. N., on a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Commission. The name announced is Spring Café.

A request for proposals was posted in December 2017, and the restaurant operator was chosen from who applied before a January deadline.

The City Council approved the contract without discussion as part of its consent agenda.

Spring Café will be the third restaurant operator at the pavilion in recent years. Como Dockside closed last fall. In 2015 Como Dockside had replaced Black Bear Crossings, which won an $800,000 legal judgment against the city after it was ousted in 2014. That restaurant had operated for 13 years, and on Como Ave. before that.

Before Black Bear a combination of city workers and caterers provided food service at the pavilion.

New operator Matty O’Reilly is not only a veteran restaurateur, he already works with the Department of Parks and Recreation to operate Red River Kitchen at the City House at

Upper Landing. That facility is in what used to be a head house and sack house for a larger grain elevator complex.

Area residents may also know O’Reilly as owner-operator of Delicata Pizza & Gelato, 1341 Pascal St., in the Como neighborhood.

The agreement takes effect Apr. 1 and continues through 2023, with an option for an additional five-year renewal. It also has a clause allowing termination. It calls for operations between 11am and 9pm weekdays during peak season and no weekday hours during the winter. Saturday and Sunday hours during peak season are 9am-9pm, and 9am-3pm during the off-season. The operator and city will work together to see if there can be promenade access during the peak season, before opening the restaurant.

Peak season is considered Mothers’ Day to Labor Day.

The hours are a major change from the Como Dockside operation, which shut its doors in November 2017. Those operators dealt with very slow weekday hours during the fall and winter months. Como Dockside had to open at 7am under its city contract.

The new operator will also provide recreational equipment rental, room rental and community access to rooms, and catering service with facilities rental. Services such as equipment rental could be contracted to a third party.

The contract gives the new operator exclusive rights to outdoor vending and calls for operations of the concessions window. Window hours cannot be used as a substitute for interior hours of operation. The operators can sell souvenirs, with the approval of such items.

O’Reilly will also take over the theater and music bookings, which traditionally are more than 100 per year.

The contract also allows for the sale of alcoholic beverages including wine, beer, and liquor. Those must be consumed within the pavilion and promenade and can only be sold when the full kitchen is in operation. Liquor could be sold at ticketed or private events.

One point of debate at last year’s community meeting is that while some neighborhood residents enjoyed being able to have liquor or cocktails, others said walking in and seeing a full bar didn’t provide a family-friendly atmosphere. The full bar is expected to go away, with wine, beer, and a few selected premade cocktails offered.

The new restaurant isn’t expected to have table service. A menu of burgers, salads and rice bowls has been suggested, under the guidance of chef J.D. Fratzke.

Another change is that the city can potentially take a larger cut of revenue during the summer. The contract does maintain the $100,000 minimum annual payback to the city.

The contract also calls for the new operator make $20,000 in improvements. That compares to $294,000 put in by Como Dockside, largely on the interior of the pavilion, which needed a new kitchen. It also included a new dock.

The new contract calls for the city to get a guarantee of 10 percent of gross revenues during the peak season. Como Dockside’s contract called for nine percent.

The contract also has thresholds for additional shared revenue if the restaurant receipts top $1.5 million and $1.75 million per year. A percentage of winter brunch revenues are to be dedicated toward additional capital improvements.

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