St. James deal on hold

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

The new deal is on hold – at least for now.

The City of Selma’s lease agreement with Gourmet Services, Inc. on management of the St. James Hotel has been put off for two weeks until lawyers for both sides agree on the contents of the lease. Council President George Evans said Wednesday the Atlanta company and the city are not far from a compromise.

Email newsletter signup

“The council approved another two weeks of expenses to get the lease agreement signed,” Evans said. “We have to agree on both sides, their lawyers and city attorney (Jimmy) Nunn.”

Evans said the new company, which primarily operates as a food service provider at several colleges and universities, wants to make improvements and preparations in the bar and restaurant before they take over.

“They want to do all the renovations and repairs so that when they open the place is like they want it, as opposed to going in now and trying to do the work,” Evans said.

The payment arrangement will be about the same as with the previous manage, a nominal $100 a month, city officials said. Nathaniel Goldston, chief executive officer of Gourmet Services, said the St. James would be their first hotel venture, and they realized going in the 42 rooms at the historic fixture “would not pay the bills.”

The bar and restaurant have been closed for four months, and the new management has said they’re ordering new silverware and china patterns, along with uniforms for the staff. Goldston said they plan to add concierge and valet services to the amenities now available. The hotel was renovated in 1996 at a cost of $6 million, but is now in need of new carpet, painting, equipment and furnishings.

“The day to day operations are still sustaining the current salaries, so the city won’t be out of any money,” Evans said.

Goldston and his staff, including Chef Marvin Woods, known by his trademark scarf from his cooking show,

visited the St. James recently. Woods, who will assist in developing the menu and setting up the kitchen, flew in from California to join Goldston in touring the facilities.

Goldston went out on his own in 1975, tapping the under-served market of historically black colleges and universities. His company now serves meals to an estimated 240,000 students, as well as catering galas for Turner South. With offices in the Sweet Auburn area, Gourmet Services employs 2,500 people with reported sales of $171 million last year.