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Free enterprise works

By Staff | Dec 19, 2009

Long-time residents who patronize the city’s downtown have some traditional stops when they visit hometown Cape Coral.

Among them?

Paesano’s for a sub on the patio before hitting the deli for the week’s fresh-sliced cold cuts and cheese; Sal’s for a couple of slices following some stops at the specialty shops; and K C’s River Stop for a dog and soft drink after a stroll down the pier or some sunning on the Yacht Club beach.

There’s lots more as the downtown area and its surrounding neighborhoods have a number of long-time establishments that have built up a loyal clientele who want what they want, served up pretty much the way it was the last time they stopped in -and the time they stopped in before that.

K C’s River Stop is among these independently owned businesses, and support for Carmine and Betty Serrago, who have leased the site of their popular eatery from the city of Cape Coral for nearly 17 years, is as strong as any.

For those who may question such consumer loyalty in these fast-food times, consider the number of patrons who have flocked to support the Serragos with petitions, letters and visits to city council meetings now that the couple is facing lease renewal.

K C’s, they say, is a Cape icon and the city should leave it alone.

Absolutely, and perhaps. There is no doubt that many of us know K C’s, have enjoyed the view from the deck, bought bait, or gassed up for a trip down the Caloosahatchee.

But the city does have a policy of review for its leased properties, and a periodic look at terms is proper. It also should be expected as it’s routine for any lease, public or private, residential or commercial, no matter the tenure of the renter, no matter the improvements made.

City council this week directed staff to meet with the Serragos, who pay the greater of $1,000 per month or 7 cents of every gallon of gas sold, to see if there is common ground for a lease re-negotiation.

Then, when council meets again on Jan. 7 after its winter hiatus, the board will look at the working proposal and decide whether to accept it, continue talks or put the lease out to a process called request for proposals, which would open up the opportunity to other operators and possibly bring in more revenue.

With all respect to the Serragos for the business they have built up, the RFP process makes sense to us. It provides the taxpayers with the assurance that council is doing its due diligence for a property that is, after all, owned by those taxpayers. It also does not rule the Serragos out or necessarily mean that K C’s will close, or that some “big business” outsider will come in and price out the anglers, the boaters and those of us who just want to enjoy the sunset and a cool beverage in a flip-flop atmosphere.

RFPs are not bids and council does not have to proceed with the proposal offering the “highest and best use” – bureaucratese for the biggest bag of bucks. The board will, though, have to publicly weigh its options and explain its choice.

That also makes sense to us. It’s transparency in government, something that not only was a major campaign issue this past season but a promise made to the voters.

It’s also the fairest choice for all parties involved – the taxpayers, the business community as a whole and yes, K C’s, which absolutely should be given consideration for that intangible they bring to the table, “good will.”

Let’s see what’s out there and then make the best choice for this prime piece of public property. The various stakeholders deserve nothing less.

– Breeze editorial