Avon Pavilion Will Stay For 10 Years
Borough, Pavilion reach agreement on terms of new lease for the boardwalk mainstay
It could give you whiplash.
The Borough of Avon, after its governing body voted two weeks ago to suddenly revoke the lease of the Avon Pavilion and then defended that position with various and changing reasons despite pushback from Pavilion supporters, voted Monday to reinstate the lease for another 10 years at a heavily attended, standing-room only meeting.
The vote of the three-member Board of Commissioners was 2-1 in favor and followed a 20-minute closed session at the top of the meeting. Commissioner Frank Gorman cast the lone vote against.
Under threat of a lawsuit from Pavilion owner Robert Fishman, the two sides came to terms over the weekend and have settled their dispute. Under the terms of a new agreement, the Pavilion will remain for another 10 years -- 3 years from the previous lease and a 7-year option following.
The floor plan of the longtime boardwalk mainstay will be reconfigured to accommodate about 200 square feet of additional public bathroom space and Fishman will be required to operate some form of temporary concessions for beachgoers this summer, according to the agreement.
"The main thing since this happened two weeks ago was to save the Pavilion for our employees and our guests,'' Fishman said.
The Commissioners in a 2-1 vote on Jan. 28 suddenly terminated the Pavilion’s lease, at the time citing a state law that required them to terminate the lease because the pavilion was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
Mayor Robert Mahon and Commissioner Frank Gorman voted in favor. Commissioner Robert McGovern cast the lone vote against the measure.
“I was stunned,’’ Fishman has said. “Just stunned.’’
The Pavilion fought back.
And in a strongly worded letter, Collins, Fishman’s attorney, threatened to sue the borough if the commissoners did not reverse the decision.
In the letter, Collins cited the same state law referenced by the borough, which required the borough to rebuild the restaurant if it was destroyed by an act of nature, such as Hurricane Sandy. The law, Collins said in his letter, said the borough had the option to walk away from a lease if the building is destroyed by an act of the tenant, however.
“The only explanation for the decision to terminate (the Pavilion’s lease) is that you believe my client caused Superstorm Sandy,” Collins said in his letter, dated Jan. 29. “Clearly this is absurd.”
“My problem with the lease is that it’s illegal,’’ he said. “We have been advised by more than one attorney that you can’t have a 25-year lease.”
Commissioner Frank Gorman emphatically agreed.
“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Gorman said. “I am in lock-step with you sir.’’
Fishman’s previous lease was for a term of five years, with two, 10-year options thereafter. Mahon said that was a 25-year lease, which he said was illegal.
The new lease conforms to the state-mandated 10-year rule and thereby "meets the needs of both parties,'' Mahon said.
"It's acceptable and agreeable to me,'' Mahon said.
No other commissioner spoke about the lease prior to voting.
Following the vote, Collins thanked the commissioners and the crowd erupted into applause while Rob Fishman and his wife, Michelle, exhanged embraces with gathered supporters and employees.
"It was just great to be part of this,'' said Mike Rispoli, a former Pavilion employee from Jersey City who set up the online petition to have the Commissioners original decision reversed. "Obviously this is just great news.''