In its bid to takeover the Jetties Beach concession lease, the owners of Millie’s restaurant in Madaket have submitted a formal proposal to run the restaurant bar, and bathhouse – plus a little something more to sweeten the deal. According to bid documents obtained by the Current, Millie’s owner and seasonal resident Bo Blair has offered the town $300,000 in capital investments in the concession facility over and above the required lease payments that average roughly $150,000 per year. “If chosen, we would be able to guarantee a $300,000 investment to bring the concession up to a level that is of a world-class destination at the busiest, most accessible, and family friendly beach,” Blair wrote to the town in his proposal for a new restaurant at Jetties dubbed “The Harpoon.”
The Millie’s team is one of two competing groups that submitted bids to the town seeking to run the publicly-owned concession facility by taking over operations from Sandbar, the current lease holder.
Under state procurement laws, the town is required to put the Jetties Beach concession area out to bid, and the new lease being offered by the town will run from 2022 through the 2026 season. Five years ago, Sandbar was chosen by the town to take over the Jetties Beach concession with a proposal that was selected over a bid by Marshall Thompson, who had run Jetties Beach Bar and Restaurant for 10 years, along with four other proposals.
Sandbar has since become a popular waterfront restaurant and bar, and is seeking another five-year lease to build on its success. It is owned by Nantucket native George Kelly and island resident Nick Nass, who said yesterday that he expected there would be competition for the lease this time around.
“We understand it’s a process because of the state law, but the town has always been great to us,” said Nass, who opened Sandbar with Kelly in 2017. “We’re very lucky. Every year we have had this amazing staff and we work really hard to find that mix. We’re really happy with what we’ve grown into. We hope to continue serving the community.”
According to its proposal, Sandbar employs a staff of roughly 100 and serves more than 1,000 people on a daily basis during its season, which runs from early May through Columbus Day. Kelly and Nass have been thrown a few curveballs – the least of which was last summer’s restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic – along with public debates regarding the restaurant’s awning that was damaged in a storm and who should be responsible for maintaining it.
“The Sandbar at Jetties Beach is a culture and brand we have cultivated from day one,” Kelly and Nass wrote in their proposal to the town. “ We have worked tirelessly to firmly establish our presence in the Jetties Concession space as a fun, casual, and family-friendly location, as well as build a recognizable brand through our retail side of the business. We have become both a destination for tourists and a reprise for our island residents.”
Their submission included a number of references who wrote glowing reviews of the Sandbar, including testimonials from Jamie Foster, executive director of the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club, Nantucket Police Department Sgt. Kevin Marshall, as well as Mark and Eithne Yelle, of Nantucket Catering Company.
In Sandbar’s current lease with the town there is a revenue sharing component which requires it to pay the town a percentage of its monthly gross sales over $1 million in addition to its base lease. That clause has resulted in more than $400,000 going back to the town. After 2017 when it was determined that the town could not receive a revenue share from a liquor license that it awards, those funds were distributed to various island non-profits including A Safe Place, the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention, and the Interfaith Council’s Food, Fuel & Rental Assistance program.Sandbar has also provided grants to the Nantucket Natural Resources Department, and no-cost meals to seniors during the pandemic.
For the Millie’s team – which includes Bo Blair and chef David Scribner – the proposal it submitted to the town is based heavily on its track record running the popular island restaurant in Madaket, which is now in its 11th year of service. Millie’s is part of Blair’s larger company Georgetown Events, which operates a handful of other restaurants, food trucks and catering services in and around Washington D.C.
“The Harpoon” would have a mission that is “similar to Millie’s in Madaket: Bringing a high-quality, fast, family-friendly menus that will meet the dining needs of beachgoers and the island community, and a well-run market that will meet retail needs” Blair wrote in this proposal to the town. The Harpoon’s menu would be seafood-centric, and the establishment would “prioritize food over alcohol sales.”
The third proposal received by the town for the Jetties Beach concession was submitted by Vanessa Traniello, a sales and marketing executive who started her early career on Nantucket working at places like the Brotherhood, Straight Wharf Restaurant, and the Boarding House, according to her bid documents. Traniello has proposed to team up with chef and entrepreneur Steve Schimoler to create “SWIM at Jetties Beach” which would operate as a “fun sustainably focused fast casual beachfront restaurant” open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. SWIM would operate with a “hybrid service model” in which diners would be seated by a host, and then order food and drinks at cashier counters and be given table numbers. Food runners would deliver meals and drinks to the table.
A town committee has started to review all three proposals based on their business and operations plans, quality control, and references. The committee includes the town’s Director of Municipal Finance Brian Turbitt, the town’s Licensing Administrator Amy Baxter, the town’s Director of Culture and Tourism Janet Schulte, former Nantucket Public Schools Superintendent Mike Cozort, and Assistant Town Manager Rachel Day. They will make a recommendation to the Select Board for its August 4 meeting, when it will award the five-year lease.