PALM COAST – A decision made last week by the Palm Coast City Council now threatens to vacate one of the city’s most popular restaurants from their location. The Green Lion Café, Palm Coast’s most highly rated restaurant on TripAdvisor, will see its location go up for auction if the current trajectory of the Council stays the same.
Back in 2017, the Council granted the owners of the Green Lion Café a quite generous tenant agreement in an effort to save the ailing Palm Harbor golf course. The course, which was in dire straits at that point in time, needed an injection of commerce in order to stay vital. The 2017 Council gave the owners of the popular Golden Lion Café in Flagler Beach a deal which would allow them to take hold at the course for low costs and operate in an easy-profit situation.
At first, the Green Lion paid no rent to the City. After six months, it was $500 rent monthly. Then, rent increased by $25 each year. It currently sits at $600 a month.
The City Council in 2017 was completely different from the current Council outside of one member: Nick Klufas. Back then, Klufas was joined by Mayor Milissa Holland, and fellow Council members Steven Nobile, Bob Cuff, and Heidi Shipley.
The Green Lion project is, by all means, a success in accomplishing its original purpose. The Palm Harbor is more vital than it was at the time the deal was approved. The concern of the current City Council is that the Green Lion’s rent isn’t nearly high enough to justify the city keeping up the building it operates out of.
The new agreement is to work to determine the market value of the Green Lion’s location, then put the space out for auction. If the present business owners are outbid by another group, one of Palm Coast’s highest rated restaurants is ousted from the space they’ve occupied since 2017.
Klufas stands as the Café’s strongest advocate within the process. The seniormost Councilman issued a strong rebuke of his colleagues on Facebook on Saturday, writing:
“The Green Lion has been a fantastic community partner over the past 5 years, and they deserve the right to execute their 5 year lease extension. This includes increasing of rent/utilities to fair market value.“Instead, members of our City Council want to terminate their lease agreement and place this out to bid once more.“This isn’t right. This is a slap in the face to a tremendous community partner who has played a major role in revitalizing our Palm Harbor Golf Course. I will not stand for it.”
Tuesday’s City Council business meeting does not have an agenda item devoted to the continued discussion of the Green Lion situation, but extended discussion from public commenters is expected. The Council doesn’t have to engage on the topic further, but hinging on the number of citizens who raise the issue, it could easily get hashed out once again.Councilman Klufas is encouraging the public to come on Tuesday to speak on this issue specifically. He posted: “Please help advocate for The Green Lion by attending our City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 15th @ 9:00am.”
The Café was particularly incensed by how it was portrayed in Council discussion, expressing its frustrations in a Facebook post from the account of its sister location, the Golden Lion:
The Green Lion was scheduled to see its monthly rent increased to $2,500 by the time the proposed lease had run its course. This September, it would’ve taken its biggest leap yet, increasing to $1,200. The City Council has decided for now that it wouldn’t let the deal hang around long enough to see those higher rates.