The owners of a few local delis told Luzerne County Purchasing Director Mark Zulkoski they’re interested in setting up eateries in the vacant county courthouse basement cafeteria, but they were unable to meet Tuesday’s deadline to submit proposals, he said.
Because no proposals were received, the county has extended the deadline two more weeks until May 2, Zulkoski said.
Zulkoski said the deli operators need more time because they were not experienced with completing proposals to lease government space. He plans to provide assistance navigating the process, saying the county will benefit if there’s a choice of multiple proposals.
After years of operating the cafeteria, United Rehabilitation Services (URS) pulled out April 4, citing declining sales. The agency, which provides employment services for the physically and mentally disabled, today announced plans to close in June due to government funding cutbacks.
URS told county Manager Robert Lawton in a Feb. 19 letter it had an $88,000 deficit on the cafeteria operation a year ago.
In an attempt to get in the black, the agency made “significant changes” in personnel, reducing its costs, improving menu items and adjusting prices, said the letter from URS Chief Executive Officer Joseph A. Pierangeli. However, the cafeteria operation deficit for this past year was estimated at $34,000, he said.
An outside company has set up vending machines and a microwave until a new tenant sets up shop, Zulkoski said.
County officials are hoping to attract a cafeteria operator that will provide revenue to the county and “fresh ideas and a new menu,” Zulkoski said.
“We’re open to anybody who can provide new options for employees and courthouse visitors,” he said.
Councilman Edward Brominski recently sent an email to council Chairman Rick Morelli saying he bumped into a county judge who suggested a Subway or similar eatery in the cafeteria to accommodate workers and jurors.
The cafeteria seats up to 60. Freezers and other appliances belonging to URS have been removed, and any replacements needed for an eatery must be supplied by the chosen operator, he said.
The cafeteria must be open weekdays, tentatively from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., though the county is willing to consider schedule variations, according to the county’s request for proposals.
The operator must provide all workers, materials, equipment, insurance and health permits. Signs related to the business must be approved by the county before they are posted. The county is seeking a five-year contract, with the option to renew an additional two years.