By PETE WALTON
The owners of CavÈ Bistro in Avon have abandoned their plans to lease an unused oceanfront building in Bradley Beach for a “farm-to-beach” restaurant.
Near the end of the Bradley Beach Borough Council meeting earlier this week, a resident who opposed the project asked for an update on the planned use of the former utility building at Ocean and Park Place avenues for the proposed eatery.
Mayor Gary Engelstad asked Borough Attorney Greg Cannon “to tell as much as we can at this point.”
Cannon reported that lease negotiations with Lynn Tellefsen and Douglas Stehle of Caveman Culinarian LLC “have failed.”
“They are not going to be proceeding, they informed up today,” Cannon said. “That’s the status of the project. It’s not happening.”
Soon after the council agreed to lease the building in January, a number of residents, many of whom live and own property near the site, expressed vigorous opposition to the plan.
The restaurant operators were willing to invest $340,000 in the building, which the borough would continue to own. The lease would have run for five years at a rate of $5,000 a year, with an option for a five-year extension.
A previous attempt to lease the facility resulted in the rejection of two bids in August of last year.
“Our ‘farm-to-beach’ kitchen would be the first of its kind restaurant on the beachfront at the Jersey Shore,” Tellefsen and Stehle said at the time of the initial agreement, adding that they would be “focusing on the quality of food and nutrition, without sacrificing taste.”
“The kitchen would serve a creative menu of 100 percent housemade plates using only the best ingredients available and will offer ‘to go’ and orders for pick-up,” according to the proposal.
Several residents formed a group calling itself “Save Bradley Beach Boardwalk” and hired attorney Stuart J. Lieberman to represent them.
At a “courtesy review” conducted by the Bradley Beach Planning Board in April, Lieberman’s first statement was an objection to the informational presentation itself.
The concerns raised by citizens included the proposed height of the building, lighting, signs, trash generation, deliveries, and the potential impact of the restaurant on parking in the area.
Also at this week’s council meeting, Borough Administrator David G. Brown II reported that beach badge sales for the 2021 season are ahead of the previous year’s figures. At this point in 2019, nearly $184,000 had been generated by badge sales. So far this year, almost $207,000 has come in.
Brown reported that the borough’s auditor for 2019, Gerard Stankiewicz of Samuel Klein and Company in Freehold, has provided letters and audit schedules for many borough accounts, though the audit itself is overdue.
“This is not a complete audit but it is definitely progress in the right direction,” Brown said. “The auditor did not provide audit schedules for our current fund, which is a significant portion of the audit. The administration will continue to apply pressure to the auditor to deliver the balance of the audit.”
The complete 2019 audit was due Sept. 30, a deadline which had already been extended by the state due to the coronavirus response.
The council hired Steven A. Wielkotz of Wielkotz & Company in Pompton Lakes earlier this year to conduct the 2020 audit. Stankiewicz has been the auditor for Bradley Beach since 2017.
Councilman Tim Sexsmith said Stankiewicz “needs to be held accountable” for an “extremely substandard performance.”
Councilman Al Gubitosi said he would draft a complaint to be filed with the state officials who handle issues involving auditors.
This week’s meeting was the last for Engelstad in the mayor’s chair. After 16 years of service in local government, the last eight as mayor, Engelstad decided not to seek reelection. He was unopposed when the ran for a second term four years ago.
Council President John Weber presented an award to the mayor’s wife Stephanie before reading from a proclamation signed by all four council members.
“Gary’s oversight and leadership helped the borough safely navigate the financial crisis of 2008,” Weber said. “Gary was instrumental in helping to restore the borough and its beachfront following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. He has provided unwavering leadership during the global pandemic of 2020.”
A plaque in the mayor’s honor will be placed in Borough Hall. Engelstad was also presented with a plaque to take home, along with a ceremonial gavel.
As the meeting drew to a close, the mayor quoted the words of President Theodore Roosevelt spoken more than 90 years ago.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
“It’s been my honor to be in your arena,” Engelstad concluded before moving to adjourn the meeting for a final time.