Supervisors go against public objections to approve lease
Following the public hearing, supervisors voted by a 4-1 margin to approve a motion to continue using the Seabreeze as a restaurant, directing the county administrator and county attorney to enter into a contract with Mac Casale, the lone complete bidder, to operate the restaurant.
A restless standing-room-only crowd packed the small historic courthouse and spilled outside, but a request to change the venue to Thomas Hunter Middle School was turned down by the board. County Administrator Mindy Conner later explained that the recording equipment used to keep a record of the meetings is operable only in the courthouse.
The RFP was issued after the current leaseholder, Garry Galluzzi of New Jersey and Gwynn’s Island, inadvertently failed to exercise his option to automatically renew the lease for an additional five years by the February deadline, then declined to submit his own proposal for the business, saying at the time that “I’m not going to beg for something that was already mine.”
Ever since the decision, Galluzzi has been making a case against the board’s action among his customers and on social media.
Before the public hearing began, supervisor G.C. Morrow told the crowd that the board was aware of the passion that residents have for the iconic restaurant. But he noted that a lot of ugly things had been said about people on both sides of the issue and that people shouldn’t throw stones. The county needs to be run in a business-like fashion, he said, and there are rules that must be followed.
“We’re as passionate as you are, but it’s a business,” said Morrow. “We’re not in cahoots with anybody to make a deal.”
Morrow reminded everyone present that the issue before the board was not who would be allowed to lease the Seabreeze but whether it would continue to be a restaurant at all.
When board chair Edwina Casey called for speakers, no one had signed up to speak either for or against the proposal. Instead, several speakers had signed to make comments that were neither for nor against it.
Pete Ashby of Gwynn said he understood that the board had to follow the rule of law, and that it would be “folly not to” continue leasing the facility. He suggested that, because of recent septic issues at the site, the board should make the new leaseholder foot the bill for repairs.
Dean Tsamouras of Mathews, owner of Southwind Café in Mathews Court House, said he was in favor of keeping the Seabreeze as a restaurant because the county “needs something on the water.”
Tyrone Hudgins of Grimstead forcefully expressed his displeasure with the county’s actions.
“Shame on you, Mathews County,” he said. “Shame on you, Mindy Conner. Shame on you, board members, to allow this to go on as planned.”