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Posted on: June 8, 2023

Oh Bento and Food Service Contracting at The Fenlands

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The operators of Oh Bento Banff started an online petition advocating for an extension on their 5-year lease of space in The Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre, rather than bidding in the open tender process for the operator for the next 5-year period. 

The Town has undertaken an open and transparent tender process for the concession and catering lease at The Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre for the next 5 years, starting in October 2023, with an option to renew for another 5 years if in good standing, following on the last 5-year agreement (2018-2023). 

The Town’s goal for food and beverage services at our community’s recreation facility is to provide healthy and affordable options in a manner that is available to facility users and delivers the best value for the tax-supported facility. The open tender processes represent the best practice for procuring lease operations in public-sector facilities to protect the interests and investments of tax-funded operations that serve the wider public.

Oh Bento’s lease agreement ends in September 2023. Oh Bento was eligible to participate in the tender process but chose not submit a proposal. The tender process was extended until May 26, but no bids were received. A new tender will be issued shortly, following a request for feedback from about 20 Bow Valley businesses, including those that had expressed interest in the tender. The Town will consider potential changes to the tender based on reasons why companies did not bid in the spring. If reasons centre around staff availability or timing in the spring (as heard in informal comments), no changes will be made to the reopening of the tender.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town waived all rent payments from the operator from March 2020 to January 2021. The Town allowed service expansions such as food delivery during the pandemic. For the last two years, the Town regularly received late lease payments and alterations in service. The Town encouraged service enhancements such as patio service for cyclists using the Bow Valley Parkway who park at the Fenlands and expanding liquor licence sales into a section of the arena. The Town granted requests for changes to operating hours and reduced rental rates in 2022 and 2023. The Town has also waived unpaid fees from October 2021 to September 2022, amounting to more than $10,000. 

The Town will continue to communicate and work with the operator about the terms of their agreement, pricing requirements, upkeep and operation of their vending machines, safety issues, as well as to clarify the tender process and the transparent policies that govern the operations of the Banff’s recreation facility in the best interests of the community.

Lease rates in the new tender will remain well below typical Banff market rates for food and beverage property leases, and are comparative with other Alberta municipal recreation facilities lease rates for similar services. 

The current lease ends in early September to allow technicians to inspect the lease space to ensure it is code compliant, safe, facility equipment is in good working order, and all mechanical servicing requirements are up to date, in time for the next lease period starting in October.

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