By Jane Smith
Restaurant owner Brian Nickerson is the kind of restaurateur the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency wants to attract.
Nickerson, who started with a food truck selling his version of Mexican fare, operated out of a former Pantry Pride location that had “parking challenges,” no air conditioning and no restrooms for its patrons.
By the second week of September, his Boss Tacos will move about 2 miles north to 1550 N. Federal Highway. The Boynton Beach plaza has ample parking, and the space will have restrooms and air conditioning.
“The place we’re in now is hot and sweaty in the summer,” Nickerson said. “We lose half of our business in the summer.”
In August, his restaurant was approved for a matching rent grant up to $15,000 because the food is locally sourced and made on site.
Boss Tacos is one of the restaurants and other food-related places flocking to eastern Boynton Beach, partially because of the agency’s economic grants.
This budget year, the agency awarded about 33 percent of the grants to eateries, said Theresa Utterback, development services specialist for the CRA.
One recent recipient was Troy’s Bar-Be-Que restaurant, part of the city for more than 20 years.
“I looked online and found them,” Anthony Barber said about the grants. “We wanted to move.”
In late spring, Troy’s moved about 2 miles south of its takeout stand on North Federal Highway to a sit-down restaurant on South Federal, just south of Woolbright Road.
“The grants are reimbursement for the money you spend,” said Barber, an owner/manager at Troy’s. “When we submit the paperwork and receive the money, we will reinvest it in the business.”
His father, Troy Davis, opened the rib takeout stand in 1996.
In June, the agency board approved Troy’s to receive an interior build-out grant of $8,000, a sign grant of $594 and rent reimbursement of $15,000.
Besides requiring multiyear leases and the grant recipients to provide matching money, the agency has several safeguards before the taxpayer dollars are given, Utterback said.
The agency staff runs credit reports on each corporate officer/manager. The average credit score cannot be below 601 and no bankruptcies can appear on the credit reports or the grant applicant is disqualified, she said.
All appropriate permits must be applied for and no money is released until the city issues a certificate of occupancy or certificate of completion, she said. In addition, agency rules require state corporate documents to be current. Business tax receipts for Boynton Beach and Palm Beach County must be provided.
For the build-out grants, final release of liens from all contractors must be provided. Then, agency staff does a lien search to ensure no liens remain on the leased property. The landlord must sign the grant applications.
Interior build-out and commercial façade grant dollars apply only to improvements that stay with the building, not for the tenant’s equipment. That way, the space remains improved for the next tenant, Utterback said.
Completed applications are forwarded to the agency board for approval.
Fork Play, which will go into the former cottage known as the Little House, had the grants made part of its purchase agreement. After the restaurant opens in late September, property owner Richard Lucibella and his partner, Barbara Ceuleers, can apply for a $25,000 façade grant, 3.3 percent of the construction cost not to exceed $66,000 and interior build-out costs not to exceed $45,000.
Fork Play will feature small bites, called tapas, and wines and craft brews. The eatery at 480 E. Ocean Ave. will be run by Lisa Mercado, who also operates the Living Room restaurant in Boynton Beach. She plans to hold a soft opening the week before the Sept. 30 grand opening.
The historic Magnuson House owner, Bruce Kaplan, has the same deal for the grants. In addition, the house at 211 E. Ocean Ave. had never been used as a restaurant. The agency will give Kaplan an extra $200,000 to do the conversion.
Kaplan, who lives in the Philadelphia area, has made several visits to interview contractors and restaurant operators, said his architect, Jim Williams.
“Once [Kaplan] picks a contractor, then we can get the building permits,” Williams said.
Construction will take at least eight months, pushing the restaurant’s opening into summer of next year, he said.
Del Sol Bakery opened in May in Ocean Palm Plaza at 1600 N. Federal Highway. Its grant of $1,100 for interior build-out was approved in July 2016. The grant amount was increased to $3,010 in May after the bakery tenants completed some of the improvements the landlord had agreed to do. The bakery also received a rent reimbursement grant of $8,550 and a signage grant of $2,250.
“The grants are very helpful, especially for a new business,” said bakery owner Michelle Gingold. “They’re definitely worth filling out the paperwork. We have received some of the money already.”
Gingold said she looked in Delray Beach first, but there is less competition in Boynton Beach. “We like being in an upcoming area,” she said.
Earlier this year, Jim Guilbeault, who received three CRA grants, changed the name of his casual restaurant from Culinary To Go to Gilby’s Restaurant. The name better reflects what’s happening inside the former Denny’s diner on South Federal Highway.
He chose Gilby because he answered to that nickname in high school. Friends could not figure out how to say his last name (pronounced GILL-bow), so they shortened it to Gilby. His kids when they were in high school also were called by that name.
Guilbeault’s 15-year-old catering business will remain under the Culinary Solutions name. It provides food and beverages to Kravis Center events, along with catering birthday parties, bar mitzvahs and other celebrations.
Guilbeault’s son is working with the CRA’s two new social media business consultants — Matthew Meinzer and Jamil Donith. They will help Gilby’s improve its social media presence.
By Jane Smith