(File photos of Seacrest and Marination, both by Christopher Boffoli)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Multiple developments today on the story we reported yesterday, picking up on a report by our partners at the Seattle Times that the city-owned Seacrest Boathouse‘s longtime operator, owner of Alki Crab and Fish, lost the contract to run the site:
We’ve just confirmed with Seattle Parks that the operators of the popular food truck Marination Mobile, which has been visiting West Seattle weekly for more than a year, are the people to whom the city intends to award the contract. There’s also an online petition circulating to “save Alki Crab and Fish,” as first reported in comments on our Sunday story – and (added) one in support of Marination.
First – From Parks spokesperson Dewey Potter, in response to our inquiry this morning:
Alki Crab and Fish finished second to Marination by a score of almost 45 points. Going beyond the normal evaluation process, Parks staff had oral interviews with the top two candidates and that did not change the outcome.
We had actually sent a note to Marination last night after various things we’d heard led us to suspect they might be the winning proposer; we have not yet received a reply. However, Parks has included both the grading from the evaluation and Marination’s proposal – while we read through it to summarize, you can see the document here (PDF).
Second – The online petition is here. Diver/photographer Laura James created it early this morning. As of right now, more than 240 people have signed it. Parks says they are expecting a written protest from Alki Crab and Fish’s owner by the end of today; the formal procedure calls for that to go to Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams, who would have the final say (pending City Council approval early next year). The pro-Marination petition (also from WSB comments) was created in early afternoon, here.
ADDED 1:03 PM: Regarding the fate of Alki Kayak Tours, which has been a subcontractor at Seacrest, renting watercraft, skates, and bikes, and leading tours (with some of those services called for by Parks) – Parks spokesperson Potter acknowledges AKT owner Greg Whittaker “expressed concern that he would lose out as a result of the evaluation of the proposals Parks received … Parks staff have talked with (him) and advised him that renting boats for recreational fishing and general boating activities will continue to be an integral part of the operation at Seacrest moving forward, and that once the protest is resolved, the newly selected operator, assuming that decision stands, is interested in subleasing that side of the operation and that he is welcome to engage in that discussion about that possibility.”
ADDED 1:53 PM: Key points of Marination’s proposal, and some background for those who aren’t familiar with their operation (and ADDED 3:33 PM, more reaction including theirs plus the current contract-holder):
Marination is run by Roz Edison and Kamala Saxton, who launched it as a food truck two and a half years ago. Earlier this year, they opened a bricks-and-mortar location on Capitol Hill. Their proposal includes a long list of awards, including their spotlight on TV’s “Good Morning America” in 2009 as “Best Food Cart in America.” Their truck’s schedule has included Saturdays at 35th/Graham, 11 am-2 pm, since July 2009, not long after their business began.
They write in their proposal for taking over Seacrest, “It will take much more than a seasoned restaurant owner to transform and enliven Seacrest. It will also require new community partnerships, positive marketing and public relations, and some strong operational efficiencies. The Marination team has these skills.”
They describe their philosophy as “SAUCY – Simple, Authentic, Uncontroversial, Connected, Youthful,” and match each member of their four-person management team, including the two owners, to various qualities on that list.
Regarding what food they would serve: “We will keep our current menu and add some additional items,” they write. “In keeping with our street-food roots, we will keep the atmosphere, pricing, and format of our food service accessible to virtually all budgets, family-friendly, and speedy.” The additional item, they write, would be a nod to the current operation: “We respect that the Seacrest Boathouse has been serving fish and chips for the past ten years and there are surely patrons who would be very disappointed not to have this option on the menu. So we plan to offer one fish and chip option – with a Hawaiian-Korean culinary twist, of course.”
Their operating hours are proposed as Monday-Thursday 6 am-10 pm, Friday 6 am-11 pm, Saturday 7 am-11 pm, Sunday 7 am-10 pm. They say they would hire some additional employees beyond the more than 20 their company now employs.
Regarding the infrastructure itself, they say they are ready to invest $100,000-$150,000 in freshening up the look inside the restaurant and also bringing the boat rental area into something more closely relating to the restaurant, though they do write that they expect to subcontract out the boat-rental part of the business.
ADDED 3:33 PM: We’ve just talked by phone with Alki Crab/Fish owner Eric Galanti, and have received a comment by e-mail from Marination’s Kamala Saxton. First, from our conversation with Galanti: He says he is “dumbfounded” by what has transpired. “We’re trying to figure out why a business with longterm employees – two that had been there longer than I have – (would lose to) a gamble, to put someone else in there … I’m not sure that the folks involved with the selection process were as familiar with the location and what goes on there as they should be.”
He says he was offering a 12 percent cut to the city, which had asked for a minimum of 10 percent, which was in Marination’s offer. He says there are two areas in the grading sheet where they came in below Marination – one, because of an apparent failure to include some financials/projections that he says the city should have had already, and another one regarding whether loans/investments would be needed (in his case, he says, they wouldn’t). He says one big thing he was proposing is something the building desperately needs for winter success – installing one indoor restroom, instead of having to have patrons go out to the two restrooms on the south side of the bathhouse.
Galanti says he received the letter last Wednesday saying the contract would be awarded to someone else, and that the city would have his protest letter by the end of the day. “I’m just dumbfounded that they can say they want to try someone new, and risk, with the extreme failure rate of restaurants, someone new coming in … We’ve had a great working relationship.”
He also says he had “tons and tons of letters of support” from entities with operations there, including Metro, the King County Water Taxi, Alki Kayak Tours, and notes that his business and the latter have teamed up for a lot of work on “sustainable tourism … all focused on what Parks wants.”
While he said he initially committed to invest up to $100,000 into the building, “we’ve spent closer to $300,000 over time.” He also is concerned about having “20 employees on my shoulders, that have come back, stuck with us through the lean winters … We’ve tried to grow our sustainable tourism, and the kayaking and boating,” far beyond the powerboats the city had required for possible fishing use (this past year, he notes, the bay didn’t even open for a fishing season in which someone could have used those boats). “I feel like that’s being overlooked by the Parks Department … the agencies [including Metro etc.] aren’t even talking to each other” about what’s succeeded and what’s needed at Seacrest.
Besides Admiral Pub and Alki Crab/Fish, Galanti owns an establishment in Kent. Meantime, here’s the PDF of his proposal, which we obtained from Parks this afternoon. Note that he was proposing adding some new menu items – “fresh large prawn cocktails (and) ceviche,” as part of a commitment to increase the offerings of fresh foods.
As for Marination – co-owner Saxton says they’re excited but also surprised by how it turned out in one respect: “We are thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to strengthen and deepen our roots in West Seattle, but by no means was it ever our intention to get into a battle with an existing small business, and certainly not to take another small business ‘out of business.’ Based on the information presented in the RFP, we honestly assumed that we would be “competing” with all new concessionaire bidders. We respect Alki Fish and Crab’s decision to appeal the Parks decision, and we have faith in the Parks due diligence to look into this matter.”
We have one component left to today’s multifaceted followup: We’ve asked Parks about the opportunity, if any, for public input in the process at this stage. We’ve been promised a reply, and will add it when we get it.