The city will utilize food trucks to provide food service at The Saints Golf Course beginning Oct. 1

PORT ST. LUCIE – The City Council voted unanimously Sept. 14 to not renew the food services contract currently held by C&R Hospitality, Inc. at the 19th Hole of the Saints Golf Course, which was set to continue on a monthly basis beginning Oct. 1. The city will begin utilizing food service trucks on that date while it seeks bids for a new operator.

The sudden Council decision came on the heels of months of ongoing negotiations between city staff and C&R Hospitality President Mark Maffei, who’d threatened to abandon the facility last July upon hearing the city planned to rebid his service contract upon its expiration Sept. 30. Mr. Maffei told the Board during its July 13 meeting that he’d already invested more than $100,000 in the facility, had found a new business partner and would not attempt to sell out the remainder of his contract. The Council ultimately voted unanimous during that meeting to waive the RFP process in his favor.

Fast-forward to the latest meeting during which Vice-Mayor Shannon Martin asked to remove Mr. Maffei’s 30-day contract renewal from the non-discussion Consent Agenda. After that, the Council turned the tables on Mr. Maffei – who was not in attendance – as its members responded to rumors he was actively looking for a buyer for his contract and staff’s revelation that he lacked sufficient liability insurance.

“I’m a little confused because when we originally discussed the item to move forward with Mr. Maffei, he stood up in front of Council and he said he wasn’t planning on selling his business, [that] he was looking for a partner,” she said. “It is now my understanding that that is not the case and that he is trying to sell the business. That is a whole other ball game and a whole other discussion if he’s planning on selling the business to somebody outright and not being involved in it anymore.”

Mayor Gregory Oravec then added fuel to the fire with the knowledge that Mr. Maffei had primarily been focusing on his nighttime entertainment and dining patrons to the detriment of the daytime golfers, along with the fact that he still lacked a necessary insurance policy.

“Since our last meeting, we had this issue where there wasn’t a liquor liability policy on the property, and that was a major strike,” he said. “Then I didn’t fully appreciate that he wasn’t taking care of the golf clientele for a while, that we were doing [things] like Hot Pockets and microwave-type food. That’s completely unacceptable. I want to go to an RFP and I want to take all comers.”

Both Parks & Recreation Director Conrad Sherman and Interim City Attorney Jim Stokes insisted the Mr. Maffei had been stringing them along insisting he’d applied for the missing insurance.

“On Aug. 21, the team was told that he had it and he would send it, and he didn’t,” Mr. Stokes said. “They asked again on Aug. 26, and he [still] didn’t. When we finally got the binder, it was dated Sept. 3, so that whole time he kept saying he had it, clearly he didn’t.”

Mr. Sherman subsequently confirmed he’d finally received proof of the insurance but still lacked having the City of Port St. Lucie listed as an additionally insured party. That was the final straw for the mayor, who said he was ready to begin utilizing food trucks beginning Oct. 1 since they’d proved successful at the 19th Hole in the past.

“That’s going to be a major requirement if I ever heard it,” Mayor Oravec said of the additionally insured component. “There’s a contract, he can’t have alcohol without the proper insurance, and he can’t continue to operate pursuant to that contract. [If] he doesn’t want to operate because he can’t serve alcohol, he can turn the keys in [and] we can check him out.”

The Board then voted unanimously to require Mr. Maffei to stop serving alcohol immediately until the city received further proof of insurance coverage, to have staff issue an RFP and to begin utilizing food trucks Oct. 1.

Assistant Communications Director Sarah Prohaska said via email Sept. 22 that Mr. Maffei would serve out the remainder of his contract through Sept. 30.

“Until such time as a successful bidder is secured as the new food and beverage concessionaire at The Saints Golf Course, the city will be responsible to provide food and beverage services on an interim basis at The Saints,” she said. “C & R Hospitality, Inc., dba The 19th Hole, is eligible to respond to the RFP.”

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