Tigertail beach rental to shut down after dispute with Collier; Fiala speaks out

Editor's note: This story was updated July 13 to include a statement from Edward F. Coyman Jr., former director of procurement services.

A paddleboard and kayak rental stand on Tigertail Beach Park will shut down Tuesday after three decades in business following unresolved disputes with Collier County, the business announced on social media.

Tony's Paddleboard, Kayak & Beach Rentals wrote Friday that "we are so very sad to walk away from a place we will always hold dear to our hearts."

Recreational Facilities of America Inc. won a bid in March to continue operating the concession but, citing COVID-19 shutdowns and issues with beach conditions at Tigertail, tried to renegotiate the terms of a new agreement with the county.

As of Friday, the county and RFA had not agreed to new terms.

County Commissioner Donna Fiala, whose district includes Marco Island, said July 8 she was not happy with the outcome.

"We give exceptions during tough times," Fiala said. 

Fiala said the shutdown is irreversible because Anthony J. Smith, president of RFA, began selling some of his equipment. A Facebook post  shared by the company shows kayaks for sale, among other items.

"Nothing can be done to salvage that anymore," Fiala said.

Their business will be a great loss, Linda Colombo, president of Friends of Tigertail Beach, wrote in an email July 5.

The county rents the concession, which also includes a nearby food stand, to RFA for 13% of its gross sales or $500 monthly, whichever is greater, according to Barry Williams, director of the county's parks and recreation department.

The county also bills RFA $50 each month for utility fees.

Williams said the Collier County Board of Commissioners waived contractual payment obligations last month to all concessionaires during March, April and May.

"That relief was provided knowing that people were out of business," he said.

RFA paid approximately $53,598 in fiscal 2017, $52,922 in fiscal 2018 and $61,079 in fiscal 2019, according to Williams.If RFA were to move forward with the new contract, it would have to pay 20% of its gross sales or $2,000 monthly, whichever is greater, according to a request for proposal released Jan. 9.

The county's proposal was fair, Williams said July 6.

"He had been at that level for 10 years and so, as the contract was being renewed, it was an opportunity for us to look at a fair percent," Williams said referring to Smith, known by locals as Tony.

Multiple attempts to contact Smith by phone and in person were unsuccessful. On June 29, an administrator of the business' Facebook page declined to comment.

A Tigertail Beach Cafe sign reflects on water at the Tigertail Beach Park on July 6, 2020.

The county currently has similar contracts with two other beach concessionaires.  

Day-Star Unlimited Inc., operator of Cabana Dan's on Vanderbilt Beach, has paid 20% of gross sales or $900 per month, whichever is greater, since 2017, according to Williams. 

Ministry Catering Inc., operator of Zack's Food Cart on Barefoot Beach, had paid 20% of gross sales or $1,100 per month, whichever is greater, since 2019.

A third beach concessionaire, Naples Grande, is operated by NWNG LLC at Clam Pass Park, has paid 12% of alcohol sales, excluding private parties, since 2010. NWNG pays a $200 usage fee and 6% gross revenue share for all private parties up to 26 parties a year.

Naples Grande operates and maintains the tram system that takes the public from the parking lot to the beach, according to Williams.

"We felt that had an advantage that allowed us to have a different percent (for Naples Grande)," he said.

Both Naples Grande and Cabana Dan’s provide food and beach rentals, according to Williams.

"The spots on the beach is the best real estate in town," said Williams. "They have exclusivity in terms of providing services for people that attend the beach."

Dispute brewing since last year

On May 9 of last year, the county released a prior request for proposal for the Tigertail concessionaire asking for 20% of gross sales or $5,500 monthly, whichever is greater, according to the document.

A committee convened on July 18 and recommended the award go to Zack’s Food Cart Ministry Catering Inc. based, in part, on scoring by assigning points from multiple evaluation categories.

Zack's scored 418 and RFA 351, a difference of 67 points, according to one county document.

On Aug. 9, the county received a bid protest from RFA, according to a legal document provided by the county.

In the letter, a law firm representing RFA alleged the county "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" by penalizing it for not including a financial plan even though the request for proposal did not require one.

Edward F. Coyman Jr., then-director of procurement services, denied the bid protest Sept. 16, a letter to RFA's attorney shows.

The letter, signed by Coyman Jr., says RFA scored the lowest amount of points in the business plan category but it makes no mention of a financial plan.

In consultation with staff, Coyman Jr. made the decision to cancel the solicitation on Nov. 20 to "revisit and revise the selection criteria and re-solicit for this service," according to an executive summary from December.

Coyman Jr. voluntarily resigned from his position as director of procurement services Dec. 6, according to county spokeswoman Maria Pizarro.

Coyman Jr. wrote July 13 he resigned as procurement director to take a position as the senior inspector general for the Collier County Clerk of the Circuit Court. As his tasks were accomplished, Coyman Jr. relocated to work for Broward County as chief negotiating officer, he wrote.

“There is no connection between my professional career path and the basis on which the RFA protest was denied,” Coyman Jr. wrote.

Sandra Herrera, current procurement director, began leading the division Dec. 9, she said.

"To provide continued service for beach rental and food concession services," the Board of County Commissioners extended the expiration date of the current contract with RFA from Jan. 11 to July 9 of 2020, according to the executive summary.

On June 23, the board approved a second extension which changed the contract's expiration date from July 9 to July 14.

"We were anticipating them to continue working with us and so we offered a second extension," Williams said.

In 2006, Smith acquired the food concession after running the beach rental business at Tigertail park for over a decade. 

At the time, Smith said it was a logical move because of the proximity of the two businesses.

"We value Tony and his family,"Williams said. "They have done a great job at that concession."

The county will release a new request for proposal and expects to have a vendor at Tigertail by January 2021 to provide food and beach rental services, Williams said.

In the meantime, paddleboard and kayak rental companies will continue to be allowed to operate on Tigertail for $16 day, according to Williams.

A company representative wrote on social media Smith will continue to rent paddleboards in the Tigertail area and that it will soon open a new restaurant and bar on Marco Island.

Contact Omar at omar.rodriguezortiz@naplesnews.com, and follow him on Twitter  as @Omar_fromPR. Support his work by subscribing to Naples Daily News.