ORLEANS — The town's first taste of food trucks at Nauset Beach satisfied stomachs and, to an extent, revenue expectations.
Payments didn't match those of the legendary Liam's, which in its last season before succumbing to erosion generated about $115,000 for the town, but came to around $63,000. The town spent $25,000 to install electricity and do other utility work, but with that in place things should look better for year two.
All four vendors are interested in returning, but one won't be getting an invitation. Town Administrator John Kelly told selectmen, meeting as park commissioners, that one still owes $8,000. “I told him if he had any hope of being extended he'd better pay today,” Kelly said Nov. 14, “and he didn't.”
Operators paid $2,500 at the outset and that amount again by Aug. 1, with final payment due at the end of season. “From the cash flow, it looks like they were doing pretty well through the season,” said Kelly. He's looking at “whether they should front-end load or pay more on a regular basis through the season.”
“In general, this was a learning season for us and them,” Natural Resources Manager Nate Sears told the commissioners. “Three of these four didn't have trucks before the season. They weren't necessarily sure what they were walking into: the demand, what food people were looking for, how much to stock certain days.” Sears said he spoke with the concessionaires on iffy beach days and let them know if it didn't make sense for them to come in.
Sears said the public needs some time to adjust to the new offerings.
“Lots of people when they're on vacation go out to eat at certain places because it's a tradition,” he said. “This is the first year Liam's been gone. They had that shock when they went to the beach; it was almost sacrilegious to eat that other food, because they're loyal. It takes a little while to build those new traditions. I think you'll see our revenues come back. People will get familiar with going to the beach and getting a pizza in the evening.”
Kelly and Sears will meet with this year's three paid-up vendors to exchange ideas about the concession program and report back to the commissioners Dec. 19.
One concession that won't be returning to Nauset Beach is surfing lessons.
“It isn't consistent with the way we manage the beach anymore,” Sears said. “They're in a depth of water we do not promote people going into on certain days.” Kelly cited safety concerns, noting that “the area where they surf is beyond the protected beach.”
The commissioners voted 4 to 1, with David Currier opposed, not to extend the request for proposals for surfing lessons. “I feel bad that we have to do this,” Kevin Galligan said. “It shows the challenges in just enjoying the beach. I hope a vote tonight is not saying never.”
Also last week, the commissioners named Mefford Runyon and Currier as their representatives on a subcommittee, along with Sears, to work with Chatham on North Beach issues.
Following a recent meeting of the commissioners and the Chatham selectmen, “It seems the two boards are on the same page regarding their willingness to extend the agreement” for managing the beach, Kelly said. “There's clearly an interest in having both towns account for expenses using the same format.”
Because its section of the beach has opened later to oversand vehicles, Chatham is interested in hiring Habitat Conservation Program staff from Orleans to manage its HCP while endangered species fledge. Not a good idea, according to Sears.
“We staff for the worst-case scenarios,” he said. “Once we're wrapping up, if my employees are willing to work in Chatham, we would allow that to happen. Generally at that time, the kids are going back to school. I think Chatham has to hire for the worst-case scenario.”
As for questions such as allowing chase vehicles on the beach and defining other uses, Sears said they don't need to be part of the subcommittee's work. “They've adopted our regulations,” he said of Chatham. “I come to you when I feel they need to be changed... The only time I would need a subcommittee (on that subject) is if we're in disagreement between the two beach managers. Then you'd have to air out what's best for both towns.”
Commissioners chairman Mark Mathison said the “feedback I got from that meeting in Chatham was that they were pleasantly surprised we were down there being very amenable and open in our discussions. I want to keep it on that basis.”