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Gering seeks new restaurant operator
November 01, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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The City of Gering is back to square one in finding an operator for the restaurant at Monument Shadows Golf Course after the potential operator pulled out of contract negotiations – leaving the restaurant closed.

The city had developed a contract with Natasha Formby, who is currently living in Las Vegas. She said she responded with suggested modifications on Oct. 5, which were received by the city on Oct. 8.
Gering City Council member and Administrative Committee member Jill McFarland said the group met on Oct. 15 to review the contract and consider the asked-for modifications.

“The City Administrator scheduled another meeting on Oct. 23 to include some members of the Recreation Committee and others who were involved along the way,” she said. “I think what happened was that Natasha wasn’t informed on where we were in the process. There was almost a two week lapse between when the contract was received and when we finally went through it the last time.”

McFarland said some of the modifications Formby requested were substantially different than the contract, so they were things that couldn’t be easily resolved. It was also challenging that she lived a thousand miles away in Las Vegas.

“I don’t dispute the fact the city may have been slow in getting this negotiated,” McFarland said. “It’s been difficult to negotiate based on logistics.”

In her notification to pull out of negotiations, Formby said the city was “undependable” in providing a quick response. She also noted she had been warned by an unnamed source not to do business with the city. But McFarland said that in reading through the modifications, some distrust was becoming evident.

“There’s no doubt Natasha would have been an excellent addition to Gering, and the restaurant,” she said. “Speaking for myself, I’m disappointed we couldn’t work this out. Now we need to aggressively pursue our options and find an operator for the restaurant.”

This isn’t the first time the city has had troubles with its restaurant operators. In early 2012, then operator Rich Kline generated a media storm by claiming the city was unresponsive to his requests for repairs to the facility’s heating/air condition system, which had fallen into disrepair.

“That was the first time I had heard anything about the problem,” said Gering Mayor Ed Mayo. “I asked staff if the problem existed, why we let it deteriorate to that point and why anything wasn’t done. My advice to staff at the time was to get out there, check it out and make it right. That’s what we’ve done.”

Mayo added the city has put measures in place to assure they’re good partners in the restaurant operation. With that, he rejected the claim the city in undependable.

Despite attempts to make things right, Kline chose not to renew his restaurant lease with the city when it expired on Oct. 31, 2012.

“In the past, when I was a council member, we may have tried to micromanage the restaurant operator and that’s not our job,” Mayo said. “Today I think the council is educated enough to know the city isn’t a restauranteur. That’s why we have someone else run it.”

One proposal thrown out earlier by some city council members was to sell the restaurant to a private entity and get out of the business entirely.

“This is not a standard business situation,” McFarland said. “Council needs to realize the restaurant belongs to the city and we need to place someone in it that will be successful. It’s up to us to make it work.”

The next step is for the city council to approve advertising a Request for Proposals for interested parties to contact the city about operating the restaurant.
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