The town is looking for mobile vendors to run the refreshment concessions at Sasco and Southport beaches for next season, but one of the previous vendors -- King's Kitchen -- claims it still has the Southport concession.
The decision to have food trucks serve beach goers was made in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which severely damaged the small, wooden concession stands at both town beaches. Officials felt it would not be worth the money to repair the structures.
Vendors must be a "self-contained vehicle or vending cart" approved by the town's Health Department, and commercially manufactured for food service. It must be driven from the beach on a daily basis each evening.
The new guidelines would appear to preclude Hunter King, who ran King's Kitchen at Southport Beach, from bringing the former beach stand back to the beach.
King purchased the Southport building for $450, with hopes to make it mobile enough to move in and out at the beginning and end of each season, or in the event of an emergency. Officials have refused to consider that option, and since then, King has been on a odyssey to find a place to deposit the beach stand in Fairfield and Westport.
After King left the stand in the parking lot of the Ukrainian Club in Fairfield, without permission, he said in an email to the Fairfield Citizen: "We do not want to return to Southport beach after what the town has put us through." Now, however, he says he will "continue to fight for the well being of our rights to serve at this concession location for my next season in 2014!"
King indicated he is having a lawyer review his contract.
King was sent an invitation to bid on the concession for 2014 and he posted what is titled a "Retort Response" on the King's Kitchen Facebook page to Phillip Ryan, the buyer for the town's Purchasing Department.
He wrote: "I believe that we still hold the contract to Southport beach for one more year. The concession stand at Southport Beach was not damaged in Hurricane Sandy. The only damage to the structure was caused AFTER the storm when the town of Fairfield's construction workers broke a floor joist when pushing the building across the street with a pay loader. They were in a rush to remove the building from the road so the public could access Pequot Avenue. This is a state-owned road. The state should have removed the building from the avenue at their discretion." Pequot Avenue is a local road, maintained by the town.
King claims he fixed the joist for $500 and "the building is in better condition now then ever."
"Why would Fairfield demolish the building when the contract clearly states otherwise? The contract does not imply that my concessionaire rights at Southport beach would be null and void regardless!" King wrote on Facebook. "We have a binding contract until the end of the 2014 summer season and I believe my contract rights have been breeched (sic)."
The contract states the town would make repairs if the work was $2,000 or less and further states, "The town shall be under no obligation to restore the building in the event of major damage or destruction by fire or other casualty." The town estimated it would cost about $45,000 to replace the stand with a FEMA-compliant structure.
A certified letter was sent by the town Oct. 24, informing King that his contract would not be extended, and explaining why.
King also claims that he spent $20,000 renovating the stand in 2012, but according to the building permit, he estimated the value of the work at about $7,000.
The new bid criteria for the beach vendors also states that chairs, tables, umbrellas, tents, signs and stereo equipment are not only not provided, but are not allowed. And loud music is "also strictly prohibited." There were some complaints to the Recreation Department about the number of chairs and some of the decorations at the stand while it was King's Kitchen.
Details of the bid invitation can be found at www.fairfieldct.gov. The bids are scheduled to be opened on Jan. 16.
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