After back-and-forth commitments by tenants fell through and having been vacant more than a year, the Cody Library Biblio Bistro cafe space may have finally found a tenant.
Clark residents Virginia Scott and Luke Foster recently tossed their name into the ring to lease the space from the county. Coming before the Park County commissioners on Tuesday, the couple said they would be willing to operate The Point Cafe at a cost of $250 per month for six months to start. The parties plan to come back together in the coming weeks to finalize a lease agreement.
A major point of contention at the meeting was the issue of who would pay for an equipment breakdown. The ice machine in the facility is already apparently out of order.
Typically in a rental situation, the building owner pays for repairs due to incidental wear and tear. But since the cafe space is not a revenue generating service for the county, commissioners Lee Livingston and Lloyd Thiel were against having the county pay for any appliances that might break down. Thiel, especially, brought up the point that the county is in a budget shortfall.
“We don’t have a lot of extra money,” Thiel said. “So, I just don’t feel comfortable sticking our people’s equipment out at the risk of having to pay for a large appliance.”
But this aspect did not appear to scare away Scott and Foster, who at least verbally agreed to pay for any costs incurred.
“You guys are going to gamble with us, we’ll take that gamble right back with you,” Foster said.
They said The Point Cafe will specialize in sandwiches and soups, with a few breakfast items offered. In their application, they mentioned offering vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options.
“We really do want to help the community,” Scott said. “It’s about us being successful, but also the whole county being successful.
Although both presented to commissioners on Tuesday, Scott was the only applicant listed on documents sent for The Point Cafe proposal. For the last eight years, she has run a catering operation and Foster said this element of the business would continue to run under the library’s auspices.
After the first six months of operation, they and the commissioners would reconvene and discuss what the price would increase to. The size of this price increase also drew consternation from Thiel, who wants it raised to a “going rate for the private sector” at that juncture.
“I’m not here to subsidize a business and cut down somebody’s downtown term,” Thiel said.“It’s going to have to be very competitive to what people are having to pay downtown.”
Unlike downtown shops, any business that rents the Bistro space is limited by the library’s hours and has no street facing exposure opportunities for advertising. On the other hand, unlike a typical renting situation, the cost of the business’s electricity would be covered by the county.
“We’re open to a highly reduced, below market rent to facilitate the patrons of the county and help somebody get started,” Fulkerson said. “To think we’re going to offer the Bistro at market rates is just never going to happen in our lifetime.”
A fair market price in Cody for a fast food restaurant is around $15-$30 per square foot per year, said Fulkerson, who serves as an appraiser. At a rate of $250 per month the Bistro space would amount to $1.42 per square foot for its 2,110 total square feet, including a kitchen and indoor public space.
Since early 2018 the Bistro has sat empty, with no permanent takers willing to sign on.
“This has been open forever, we’re not discriminating against anybody,” Fulkerson said.
Last spring, Diane Whitlock made moves to open a French-style bakery in the space, but pulled out from the proposition when the lease started to come to fruition.
Tara Torrey also expressed an interest in operating a business out of the space to commissioners Tuesday, but appeared to lose interest when told about the maintenance stipulation. Torrey previously ran “The Landing” restaurant at Yellowstone Regional Airport from 2003-2012 and has food experience in a few other food ventures.
Since opening in 2008, the Bistro consistently lost money, running with a $30,000-$60,000 annual shortfall.
“It is a business incubator,” Frances Clymer, Park County library director said. “It serves a service to the community to help businesses develop.”