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NORWALK -- City officials yesterday granted the troubled Calf Pasture Beach concession to Stew Leonard Jr., who outbid two local food preparers to operate the neglected facility for the next two summers.
The recommendation was made earlier in the day by a search committee and endorsed last night by the Common Council.
To mark the event, Leonard, president of the Norwalk-based three-store grocery chain Stew Leonard's, sent a chef with a grill to the beach yesterday afternoon. For the first time in two years, hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecued corn on the cob were served at the 1950s era brick building at the concession stand.
As Leonard was entering the 2,300-square-foot building, he pulled one door almost completely off its rusted hinges. "I guess that's the omen right here," he said, laughing.
Holding a long-handled, blue scrub brush in his hand, Mayor Alex Knopp said the announcement was being made inside the dirty kitchen area to show "the last time you will see this facility in such rundown deplorable condition."
Over the past several years, the city has had difficulty finding a quality concessionaire to run the establishment.
Last year, the building went unused in favor of a hot dog cart operated by Dale and Lou DeRosa.
Up until early April, the city hoped that Uptown Tavern owner Lou Letizia would take over the stand year-round, but the deal fell apart when Letizia realized that business wouldn't support a permanent restaurant at the beach.
Last week, city officials asked concessionaires to submit proposals for running the beach stand. In addition to Leonard, Home Run Deli owner Steve Brueski and Neil Hamilton, who runs the coffee concession at the East Norwalk and South Norwalk railroad stations, put in a bid.
Knopp said he was recommending Leonard's bid because "his company submitted the highest dollar investment and was able to guarantee the concession will be opened by Memorial Day."
In lieu of paying rent to the city for the first year, Leonard pledged to spend $10,000 to make permanent improvements to the building and spend another $10,000 in labor costs to make much-needed repairs. Leonard also offered to rent the building next season, which runs from May 1 to Nov. 15, for $6,000.
Leonard's bid estimated that he will have to invest another $50,000 in restaurant equipment such as sinks, stoves, fryers, two tents, umbrellas, tables and chairs, all of which he would own after the two-year concession ends.