Sand Bar gets 30-year lease

Published 9:53 pm Friday, April 29, 2016

Four months after flooding, The Sand Bar restaurant has cleared its last hurdle to reopening.

The Selma City Council approved a long-term lease with restaurant owner David Pearce during Tuesday night’s meeting.

The council has been discussing the lease since January and got a final version of the document during the April 12 meeting.

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Several council members wanted additional time to review the lease, which pushed back the vote until Tuesday.

Under the terms of the agreement, Pearce will be given an initial 10-year lease and will have two optional 10-year renewals for a total of 30 years.

Pearce’s rent will essentially be forgiven for the cost of building a new bar and restaurant. Pearce said at previous council meetings that he plans to spend between $300,000 and $400,000 on the new restaurant.

Council President Corey Bowie and council members Cecil Williamson, Susan Keith, Greg Bjelke, Angela Benjamin, Sam Randolph, B.L. Tucker and Michael Johnson voted for the lease, while Bennie Ruth Crenshaw voted against it.

Despite voting for the lease, Randolph asked what the city is getting out the agreement. At the last city council meeting, Randolph proposed the city build and operate a restaurant at the marina.

“I don’t have any problems with The Sand Bar, but what is the city getting out of this?” Randolph said. “You done gave them the kitchen sink and everything else.”

Selma attorney Jimmy Nunn reminded the council about Pearce’s investment in the building. He said the restaurant would also generate sales and personal property tax in addition to employing residents and drawing tourists.

“The benefit from the city is definitely the sales tax,” said Councilman Greg Bjelke. “It is a draw. People go there, and it’s good to have a place there. The benefits for the city are far reaching.”

Crenshaw said she couldn’t support the lease because it didn’t stipulate what could or couldn’t be done on the property.

“We did not have any stipulations in the lease at all. I think what we did was just turn it over,” Crenshaw said. “I just want to make sure we are doing the right thing for the citizens.”

Councilwoman Susan Keith said she understood the new restaurant would cater more to boaters and people fishing at the marina than the previous one. She said the city is working to get fuel at the marina too.

“It’s not just going to be a fine restaurant on the river. It’s going to be something for the boaters, people who fish on the river bank,” Keith said.

The Sand Bar flooded the week during Christmas and New Year’s Day, when the Alabama River rose to above 49 feet. The new Sand Bar will be built on higher ground in the marina’s paved parking lot.