The Sussex County Council this week voted to approve a new lease with Deli Days LLC to lease the restaurant at the Sussex County Airpark. The owners of Deli Days LLC bought Arena’s in 2005 and grew the business to four locations, explained Hal Godwin, deputy county administrator.
“The Arena’s name has been in Sussex County 22 years, and these owners bought them in 2005, I’d think you would give some respect to the fact that they have grown to four locations in seven years,” he said to the council. He also said they gross about $5 million per year in sales and have two locations in Rehoboth Beach, one in Long Neck and one in Lewes, but were lacking a presence in Georgetown.
They proposed serving lunch and dinner seven days a week, with brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Godwin said the lease proposed was a “hybrid” of their current lease and would be for five years with a one-term extension option. The rent would grow 3 percent each year, with a maximum of $15,000 per year.
“To what extent are we subsidizing this?” asked Councilman George Cole.
Cole had asked similar questions in December 2012 when the council first discussed having to find a new tenant.
Godwin said the County pays for propane for cooking, maintenance and repairs on the kitchen equipment, insurance, and water and sewer.
“How much are we losing each month?” asked Cole.
Godwin said there was a $23,000 loss in 2009, a $10,800 loss in 2010, a $17,000 loss in 2011 and a $13,700 loss in 2012.
Finance Director Susan Webb added that the County does own the kitchen equipment, so “it is in our best interest to [maintain] it.”
Councilman Sam Wilson added that the propane heats other parts of the building, and the benefits of having the restaurant in the airpark should be factored in, as well, he said, noting that the losses “may not be as much as they appear.”
Cole said he wanted to have more specifics written out as to what the County would continue to subsidize at the end of the five years, but an addendum to the lease was voted down.
“Why do we pay for propane? There ought to be a clear understanding,” Cole said.
Godwin said there was a statement that the County would discuss specifics at the end of the five years...
“It ought to be in writing,” said Cole.
The council then voted to approve the lease as written, with Assistant County Attorney Vince Robertson assuring Cole that what he was asking for was already in the document.
The next regularly scheduled county council meeting will be Tuesday, March 19. There will be no meetings on March 5 or March 12.