ECHO PARK — The cafe at the Echo Park Lake Boathouse is a busy place on weekends, with diners and their dogs vying for available tables. But despite what seems to be a successful enterprise, the current cafe, called Square One at the Boathouse, is on its way out. The city’s parks commissioners voted on Wednesday in favor of turning over the boathouse cafe concession to an outfit called MTI Investments, which plans to open Curate Cafe in the same place. What’s behind the change?
The Department of Recreation and Parks failed to come to an agreement with the current cafe operator, which also owns Square One Cafe in East Hollywood and Silver Lake. According to city documents, the department went looking for a new operator after the principals of Square One involved in the boathouse wanted to reduce the share of annual revenue given to the city. In 2015, the boathouse sold more than $580,000 in food and drinks, according to a parks commission board report. About $29,000 – or 5% – of that revenue went to Recreation and Parks.
In its proposal, MTI Investments, which manages six other restaurants and is based in Santa Fe Springs, offered up at least 9% of the boathouse revenue to the city. Their boathouse menu would include locally sourced ingredients, organic beef burgers, vegetable dishes, salads and breakfast items.
John Himmelstein of Square One at the Boathouse, which has been operating on a month-to-month basis, said he was not sure when the new cafe would open. “It was our pleasure to serve the community,” he said.
Update: Himmelstein provided a more detailed response about operations at the boathouse:
“First, we are glad that we were able to open our cafe in conjunction with the renovation of Echo Park. When Mayor Elect Garcetti asked that we jump in, we did. Unfortunately, it’s no longer a sustainable business model for us. The Recreation and Parks department wants to double our rent as well as have mobile vending. Our initial contract called for us to have exclusive rights to sell within the boundaries of the park. Unfortunately, the city did not enforce that provision.
We look forward to welcoming our customers at Square One’s two other locations —– on Fountain Ave. in East Hollywood and in the heart of Silver Lake on Hyperion Ave. We wish Echo Park and the new operators of the boathouse well.”
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