BocaJump | Tuesday, April 17, 2012By Ted Schnell •
Perhaps the third time will be the charm for an Elgin man who wants to rent pedal boat and run a food and drink concession in the downtown’s Festival Park on weekends and perhaps some weekdays as well.
The City Council last week signed off on the licensing agreement with Justin Hodge, just as the council did a year ago. But at the time the council approved his 2011 license, Hodge had not obtained insurance for the operation and had some capital expenses, which city officials said served as obstacles. Consequently, the pedal boat and food concessions never materialized.
Hodge first sought city permission for the concession in 2010, but at the time several issues stopped him from proceeding. One was the city ordinances at the time prohibited concessions in the park except for special events. Second, the Elgin First Department raised some safety concerns that officials say have been addressed in the license for the business. His application prompted the city to change the ordinance to allow licensed vendors in the park.
This year is different for the pedal boat venture. City Manager Sean Stegall last week credited Hodge for sticking with his entrepreneurial dream and said Hodge has everything in place to open up his pedal boat and food/drink concession as planned on weekends and some weekdays.
The city administration’s memo to the City Council anticipates success: “Given the large number of visitors that frequent Festival Park and the adjacent bike path, these offerings are expected to be quite popular and could enhance the visitor’s experience to the park. No other vendors of any kind are operated out of Festival Park at this time.”
His agreement with the city allows him to rent as many as five pedal boats and to operate a food/drink cart at the same site, which will be on the Fox River near the fountain area in Festival Park. Hodge also is required to keep a JetSki on hand for emergencies.
According to the agreement, the pedal boats can be operated along the river from Walton Islands on the north to the city’s southern corporate limits. Hodge must provide a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each boater, and each pedal boat must be equipped with a two-way radio to allow the boaters to communicate with Hodge, and a GPS system for tracking the boats. During the hours of operation, Hodge must have at least two employees with CPR and first aid training on site.
Other provisions in the agreement require that Hodge:
- Handle all aspects of his operations and marketing with no assistance from the city.
- Must set up and take down his canopy and boats every day.
- Operate his business from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- May begin operating as soon as the license agreement is approved.
- May continue through the end of September.
- License each pedal boat through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
- Is required to submit a seasonal food handling application to the city’s health department and have his food cart and commissary (base of operation) inspected. Hodge must pay $365 to the city for a seasonal food-handling permit.
While Festival Park opened with great fanfare in 2007, attracting a number of warm-weather festivals and events, the Great Recession of 2008 put a damper on ongoing festival that has continued since then.