By Jane Smith
Delray Beach will have at least 100 more chairs on the beach under a renewed contract with its beach equipment vendor, the City Commission unanimously decided in mid-January.
Oceanside Beach Service has supplied reclining rental chairs, umbrellas and cabanas to Delray Beach for the past 16 years. For the last year of its old contract, the North Palm Beach-based company was limited to 250 chairs.
During the off-season, defined as May through the first two weeks in December, Oceanside will set up 300 reclining chairs across from the oceanfront Marriott down to the end of the municipal beach, across from Casuarina Road. The vendor will set up an additional 50 chairs on the beach at Atlantic Dunes Park.
But from the last two weeks in December through April, during the peak season, Oceanside will set up more chairs, after conferring with an onsite Parks and Recreation Department employee assigned to monitor the contract. The deal did not mention a limit.
“Without this exception, the city of Delray Beach will be unable to serve the beach-going public to a standard that’s equal to its image and profile,” wrote Michael J. Novatka, Oceanside president, in his company’s bid.
While annual beach attendance has more than doubled in the past 16 years to more than 3 million people, Oceanside has been limited to 250 chairs in that time frame, according to Novatka’s bid.
Oceanside “wants to meet the demand,” said Suzanne Fisher, Parks and Recreation Department director. Its chairs, cabanas and umbrellas will not restrict city lifeguards’ views, Fisher said.
The extra chairs will be set up just north of Atlantic Avenue across from the Marriott, she said. “On the weekends, about 10 percent of the beach-goers are waiting for a chair,” Fisher said.
But the north end is also where Delray Beach residents go to enjoy a more peaceful beach experience, Mayor Shelly Petrolia said.
Petrolia was willing to approve the contract because it now contains a penalty clause if Oceanside doesn’t meet its terms and residents complain about too many chairs or other issues.
One complaint about signage has already been fixed. Oceanside has posted signs “that clearly show the prices,” Fisher said. The company also now takes credit cards.
A single chair with cushion rents for $7 an hour or $20 a day, plus Florida sales tax.
The Parks and Recreation Department put its beach equipment rental concession out for bid in July. Two firms attended the pre-bid meeting in August, Fisher said. But only Oceanside submitted a bid, and the council considers it a responsive and responsible vendor.
Commissioner Bill Bathurst said his family has used Oceanside beach chairs in the past.
“We don’t have any hotels [directly] on the beach,” Bathurst said. “This contract provides chairs for our visitors.”
The $2.1 million, five-year contract runs until Oct. 31, 2023, with Oceanside paying $405,000 in its first two years and then increasing to $415,000 for its last three years.
Oceanside is paying 38 percent more to the city over its previous five-year contract valued at $1.5 million.