City Council Approves Spring Café Contract
Friday, February 9, 2018 9:15 AM

pavilion-t_boardman_2.jpg
Photo: T. Boardman

The Saint Paul City Council approved a five-year contract on Feb. 14 for Spring Café to run food, music, and other activities at the Como Lakeside Pavilion. The contract takes effect April 1, and requires the restaurant to open no later than May 5.

The contract sets minimum requirements for the restaurant’s hours, its menu, and related activities. But it allows and -- through financial incentives -- encourages Spring Café to do more.

The prime example: The contract requires Spring Café to be open at least from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays, and from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. on weekends, during peak season. That’s the four-month period from the first weekend in May through the weekend after Labor Day.

During the rest of the year, the restaurant is required to open only on weekends, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. But if it opens additional days during fall and winter, Spring Café will not pay commissions on that revenue. If it opens a certain number of additional hours at any time of the year, it gets a credit on what it owes the city.

That balance means Spring Café is not locked into hours that may not succeed financially, says Mike Hahm, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation. But if the community shows it will support additional hours or activities, Spring Café has a financial incentive to meet that demand. “It’s more adaptable to respond to what’s successful or not,” Hahm says.

More flexibility built in

Veteran restaurateur Matty O'Reilly heads the Spring Café team. O’Reilly already operates Delicata in the Como neighborhood; the seasonal Red River Kitchen at City House on the Upper Landing; Bar Brigade in the Highland Park neighborhood; and Republic in Minneapolis' Dinkytown.

O'Reilly told Mpls StPaul magazine, "I think we can take what people loved about Black Bear Crossing[s] and what worked with Como Dockside, and make something special.” The menu, though still a work in progress, will be family friendly and accessible, including hamburgers, bratwurst, and salads, O'Reillly says. As for weekends, “Why not just do a killer brunch?" he told the magazine. "We’ll have a bloody bar and just give people a really great reason to come

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Matty O'Reilly leads the management team at Spring Cafe.
down on the weekends.”

The city must sign off on menu and prices every year. Hahm says Spring Café told the city and neighborhood selection committee that it plans to provide a diverse menu that is competitively priced and combines some “quality” options with quicker service that frequently was available at Dockside. Unlike the static selection at Dockside, Hahm says, Spring Café expects to be more flexible – adding or dropping menu items depending on their popularity. The restaurant will have a full liquor license, though O'Reilly says the bar itself will not exist and that Spring Café expects to paint over the black interior.

The contract does allow Spring Café to offer additional food and beverage options outside the Pavilion. This could mean, for example, a farmers market, or a coffee truck in the south parking lot.  The contract also requires:

  • At least 100 musical performances a year.
  • A summertime concession window on the lake.
  • Bicycle, kayak, and similar recreational rentals from May-September. (Hahm says Wheel Fun is again likely to subcontract to run those concessions.)
  • Community rooms available for rental.
  • Banquet services. (Hahm says Spring Café is likely to contract with an outside catering company to run banquets, so its own kitchen is not overwhelmed. That would strike a balance between Como Dockside, which managed very few banquets, and the previous manager, Black Bear Crossings, which relied heavily on banquet business.)
  • City staff and a “community input committee” to rate Spring Café’s performance annually.

City gets at least $100,000 a year
Spring Café will pay the city at least $100,000 a year. The payments are 10 percent of gross revenues up to $1.5 million, 11 percent of revenues between $1.5 and $1.75 million, and 12 percent of revenues above $1.75 million.

The contract runs through Dec. 31, 2023. If Spring Café meets detailed performance standards, the contract will renew automatically for another five years.

(Read the full contract by downloading the PDF in the right column.)

Updated Feb. 15, 2018

District 10 Como Community Council | 1224 Lexington Pkwy N, Saint Paul, MN 55103 | 651.644.3889 | district10 [at] district10comopark.org

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