Cosmo Lodge contract passes first hurdle

Prince Albert city council has awarded a five-year contract for the operation of Cosmo Lodge despite concerns from one councillor about the tender process.

Coun. Evert Botha said he’s received text messages and emails from business owners in the city who liked the idea, but didn’t bid on the project because they didn’t see it go out for tender. Botha said he’s not opposed to Shananigan’s Bistro, the Prince Albert company that won the contract. However, he would like more clarity for future tenders.

“I think, from a communication point of view, we probably could have done a little bit more to make sure that every restaurant operator in the city knows that the city’s intention is to move from a caretaker agreement … into a for-profit restaurant,” he said during Monday’s executive committee meeting.

That wasn’t Botha’s only concern. He told council he’s also received correspondence from one bidder who said their proposal was “substantially higher” because the tender asked for information about all day-to-day operations costs, not just those that would accumulate while operating at Cosmo Lodge. Botha declined to say which bidder contacted him.

The comments drew the ire of Mayor Greg Dionne, who was adamant that the tender process was as clear as possible.

“Every restaurateur had the opportunity to bid,” Dionne argued during Monday’s meeting. “You just had to go on the (tender) site and it showed it separated. It was very clear … what the department’s intentions were if you looked at the RFP. For someone (who) didn’t understand it and they didn’t get it, there was a number there where they could have called Tim (parks manager Tim Yeaman). I thought it was a very good process.”

Yeaman also defended the tender process during a media scrum following Monday’s meeting. He said it was distributed widely online through SaskTenders, a public website for businesses to bid on projects, and locally through the Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce. He also hasn’t heard any complaints about it, although he said bidders typically take their concerns directly to council members rather than city administration.

“We felt that the process was fair,” he told reporters. “It produced the result that I think the City was looking for, and that (result) was a good proposal, something that had vision to it and a good price attached to it as well.”

After the tender process, alcohol was the second biggest concern at Monday’s meeting. The new operators may be allowed to serve alcohol at Cosmo Lodge, something not all council members are sold on.

Yeaman said Cosmo Lodge would be treated like a family restaurant, where patrons can have a drink with their meal, rather than a bar or a lounge, where drinking is the primary activity.

“As long as it’s properly policed, I don’t think the department sees an issue with that,” Yeaman said. “But, it’s certainly something we can have further conversation about.”

Council still needs to give the agreement final approval at the next regular council meeting on March 16.

If approved, Shananigan’s Bistro will take over the operation of the lodge and maintenance of the surrounding 3.5 acres on May 1. The City will pay $288,600 over the first four years of the contract, and enter into a profit-sharing agreement with Shananigan’s in the fifth.

The current agreement with the Prince Albert Métis Women’s Association (PAMWA) expires later this year. Yeaman said the PAMWA did a lot of good at Cosmo Lodge, but the City felt it was time for a new chapter at Little Red.

“We’re trying to create an experience for the public—something that’s positive—and sometimes the only way to go about that is to ensure that you actually help somebody get established and then help wean them off of the City,” Yeaman said. “Shananigan’s came in with a great proposal and within five years they’re looking at a profit share with the City, and that’s something that’s very positive. It actually reduces their reliance on the City for annual funds.”

Dionne echoed those sentiments, saying Little Red River Park is underused and underappreciated. He believes that will change with the new contract.

“I just think it’s going to be an awesome opportunity for us and finally, the Little Red (River Park) is going to be used to the potential that it has,” he said. “It’s a jewel in our community and it should be treated that way.”