Rockaway Beach patrons could have new options close by for sunscreen and tchotchkes this summer.
The city is soliciting bids to operate up to 10 merchandise and beach equipment stands during daylight hours along the Queens shoreline, according to a request for proposals issued by the city Department of Parks and Recreation on Dec. 23.
Parks officials, who have already implemented a concession for food vendor locations in the area, are looking for an operator to buy into a two-year agreement with four one-year renewal options, the document says. All parties hoping to oversee the new retail stands will need to offer the agency a guaranteed flat yearly fee that would preferably rise at least five percent each year, according to the RFP. The agency is conducting a site tour for prospective bidders on Jan. 13 and proposals are due by Feb. 9.
The popular beach drew 7.5 million visitors the summer before Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc there in October 2012, and, in the midst of a $140 million rebuilding effort, Rockaway Beach attracted over 4 million people last summer, the RFP says.
“There’s a real vibrancy out in Rockaway and we want to continue the momentum,” Liam Kavanagh, first deputy commissioner of the Parks Department, told Commercial Observer. “We’re looking for the traditional things that people look for when they’re out at the beach.” But, he added, “We’re hoping that the business community might have some ideas that we hadn’t thought of.”
Before Sandy, Parks officials said, the area boasted just one beach equipment shop in a building at Beach 97th Street, but the agency has pinpointed several potential locations for mobile stands next to dunes, bus shelters and comfort stations that line the boardwalk. While concessionaires won’t be allowed to sell food, they will be permitted to sell items like swimwear, chairs, umbrellas and Rockaway Beach-themed merchandise.
Parks officials declined to state a ballpark range for the annual fee or the likely competitors for the city concession. But potential bidders may either plan to rent out the stands like Union Square Holiday Market operator UrbanSpace does each year or propose arrangements like direct control of all the stands or a combined agreement among several vendors, the Parks officials said.
Rockaway Beach Club operates the snack bars on Beach 86th, Beach 97th and Beach 106 and a shop on Beach 97th and will pay the city $84,270 in 2015, while Dredsurfer controls a snack bar at Beach 17th with a $6,000 fee to the city scheduled for next year, Parks officials said.
The snack bars, which feature local favorites like Rockaway Taco and Lobster Joint, have proven to be a “really interesting place to go have lunch, or dinner, for that matter,” but the area is still a work in progress, said Mr. Kavanagh.
He added, “It’s going to be a couple years before everything is in place. We see this as a first step in building a broader support network for people using the beach.”