St. Clair Shores approves 8-year contract for Blossom Heath management

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 12, 2022

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — City Council voted to approve an eight-year agreement with Encore Catering for management of Blossom Heath Inn that stipulates that both the city and the business will make some improvements to the historic property.

The eight-year agreement allows for Encore Catering to recoup more of the investment it is putting into the property, explained City Attorney Robert Ihrie.

“Encore felt that, for what they intend on putting into the property (and the fact that) they can’t start right away because of some work that the city is going to be doing on the property, an eight-year contract would be more conducive,” he said Dec. 20.

The contract runs from Jan. 1, 2022, through Dec. 31, 2029, with an option to extend the agreement for an additional five years by mutual agreement of both parties.

The contract calls for Encore Catering, owned by “Chef Bobby” Robert Nahra, to bear all costs relating to services, including supplying Internet and their own kitchen supplies and tableware. The company will also spend at least $150,000 on interior improvements to the facility. Of that, $50,000 must be building improvements that will stay with the facility, and the remaining $100,000 can be enhancements that may stay with Blossom Heath or may belong to Encore at the end of the contract.

In addition, the city is committing to spend at least $250,000 to clean the facility and remediate any mold; recoat the kitchen floor; paint walls visible to the public; bring the building up to code with regard to fire, electric, plumbing and air conditioning; remodel the bathrooms; bring the bride and groom rooms to “white box” condition to be ready for Encore’s improvements; and install new electric compressors for the walk-in refrigerator and freezers. The work is to be completed by July 1.

The city needed to make a bigger commitment to the building, said Councilman John Caron.

“That’s important for us to step up,” he said. “I think eight years is definitely fair. We are not requiring rent until (2024) to allow Encore to get up and running, fill up with business after we get all the renovations done.”

The contract calls for Encore Catering to pay $72,000 in annual rent, commencing Jan. 1, 2024, and running for six years.

The city’s prior contract with Kosch Catering, of Rochester, was a 10-year agreement that included annual rent payments beginning at $36,000 in 2016 that was set to increase up to $84,000 by 2024, for an average payment of $60,000 each year. Kosch terminated its contract with the city early, at the end of 2021.

Councilman Dave Rubello said that it would be a challenge for Encore Catering in the first year or so, but he felt Nahra would be able to make the venture a success.

“Coming into a building like that, with no business booked in advance” can be difficult, said Rubello. “This is a guy who can do the job. It’s a difficult task, and I think Bobby’s up to it and his staff is up to it.

“I have the utmost respect for you, and you’re going to do a good job in there.”

The city will be responsible for utilities and outside maintenance, while Encore will allow a senior citizen group to use the facility weekly at no charge and allow the city to use the facility for up to three events per year at cost.

The contract also includes a clause for fire or a pandemic, which calls for the city to make repairs to the facility in the event of a fire and releases Encore from the obligation to pay rent or utilities if a pandemic causes the company to be unable to conduct business. Kosch Catering’s representative, Gordie Kosch, told the St. Clair Shores City Council in July that the COVID-19 pandemic had cut business by 80%.

“This is an awesome contract for both of us; it’s a win-win,” said Councilman Ron Frederick in December of the Encore Catering agreement. “We have to set the vendor up for success. The alternative would be, we’d be sitting here in two years trying to figure out how we screwed up.”

Mayor Kip Walby agreed.

“We need it to be successful,” he said. “(Blossom Heath will only be) more popular as we complete that 396-foot pier out into the water.

“I know we’ve picked the right vendor to take care of that.”

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