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Commissioner who voted against Benny’s on the Beach lease renewal ‘open to continued negotiations’

By Steve King

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    LAKE WORTH, Florida (WPBF) — We’re now hearing from the owner of Benny’s on the Beach as well as city leaders about Lake Worth Beach’s iconic restaurant on the pier, which had its lease renewal rejected by the city commission last Tuesday.

City leaders say negations are ongoing as the beloved restaurant continues to work to secure a new lease, with its current one set to expire in about a month.

Both the owner of Benny’s on the Beach and the mayor of Lake Worth Beach said they were surprised and three commissioners voted against lease renewal at last Tuesday’s commission meeting. One of those commissioners tells WPBF 25 News he is open to further negotiations.

“I’m 100% open to continued negotiations,” said Vice Mayor Dr. Christopher McVoy, one of the commissioners who voted against lease renewal last Tuesday. “It needs to be fair to (the restaurant owner) and it needs to be fair to the city.”

McVoy says a main reason he voted “no” last Tuesday is because he felt the city didn’t have enough data to agree to a new lease with Benny’s on the Beach on the Lake Worth Pier.

Mcvoy said after the meeting he asked the city attorney to examine leases for at least eight restaurants at similar locations in Florida before McVoy feels there’s enough data to make an informed decision.

“If we’re all 100% on board and we feel we’ve got the data and we feel that the process was appropriate and we’re happy with the result that we’ve encountered, then it should be a 5-0 vote and everybody is happy,” said McVoy.

Mayor Betty Resch, who voted for lease renewal, is still surprised by the “no” vote last Tuesday.

“I’m a little confused what the problem is. This should have been a much simpler process and I hope it resolves itself and I believe it will. I’m optimistic,” said Resch. “Benny’s is such an iconic place. It is where people come, where people bring their friends. It attracts people from out of town. It’s a beautiful thing and let’s try to keep it.”

She says the city manager and city attorney already sent four proposed lease agreements to the owner of Benny’s on the Beach over the last few months, with the most recent proposal including an average rent increase of 33% over the next 10 years. The current agreement, which is set to expire in about a month, had a flat rate over the last 10 years.

For the patrons and staff, they’re just hoping everything works out for this iconic landmark of Lake Worth Beach, which has been at the pier since 1986.

“It’s a wonderful place. There’s nothing like it and so many people find happiness here,” said Kelly Crenshaw, who regularly dines at Benny’s on the Beach.

“This place, I mean, it’s put food on my son’s table,” said Joshua Weiss, a bartender for more than 10 years at Benny’s on the Beach. “It’s a little heartbreaking and concerning to hear but I feel like we’ve had so much support behind us that it’s just going to go in the right direction.”

Many people are showing their support for Benny’s on the Beach right now. A parade with golf carts was held in Lake Worth Beach on Sunday and supporters have paid for a billboard that says “Save Benny’s” next to I-95.

The owner of the restaurant, Lee Lipton, sent the following statement to WPBF 25 News:

“There has not been a formal update from the commission meeting. I must tell you, in our wildest dreams we never could have dreamed this most amazing out pouring of love from our 200 employees as well as our loyal customer base. “As our sign says on the pier, Benny’s has been a Lake Worth Beach landmark since 1986. “We love Lake Worth Beach and if the tens of thousands of internet posts and calls count since Tuesday’s meeting, it feels like the citizens of Lake Worth Beach feel the same!!”

Lipton also says he’s worried about his 200 employees, but that he’s hopeful everything will work out .

The next regularly scheduled commission meeting is set for Tuesday, May 2.

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