Home Food & Beverage Westchester County seeking operator for Playland restaurant

Westchester County seeking operator for Playland restaurant

Westchester County is seeking a new operator for the Playland restaurant and bar location, which have been operating as The Pier Restaurant and Tiki Bar and reported gross receipts of $3,071,574.50 during the 2018 season. Receipts for the just-ended 2019 summer season were not immediately available.

playland tiki bar
Photo via Google Maps.

The Pier Restaurant and Tiki Bar have been co-owned by John Ambrose and Sam Chernin. Ambrose, a resident of Rye where the amusement park is located, died in September.

A source told the Business Journal that the county’s decision to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for a new operator was made as “just part of the process” and was not related to Ambrose’s death. The source indicated that the county was “not unhappy” with the way the restaurant and bar were being operated.

Ambrose and Chernin also owned the restaurant Seaside Johnnie’s, which was at Rye Town Park, adjacent to Playland. It operated for 17 years and was closed in 2016. Ambrose previously operated the Crab Shanty in Mamaroneck, which closed in 2004.

The RFP invites experienced restaurateurs and food concessionaires to tell how they’d operate not only the restaurant and bar, but also a daily boat parking service for visitors who come to Playland via the Long Island Sound. It would include use of the existing service dock, ramp and moorings adjacent to the exiting boardwalk pier, as well as operating a boat shuttle between the moorings and a floating dock just below the pier.

The county is offering a five-year operating license to an operator which, at the sole option of the county, could be extended for an additional five years. It would require the operator to pay a minimum license fee of 18% of the facility’s gross receipts with a minimum guarantee of $300,000.

Playland’s operating season has been beginning in May and running to the middle of September. For the 2018 season, the restaurant and bar operation produced a license fee of $228,848.39 for the county, a little over 7.4% of the gross receipts.

The RFP requires the chosen operator to “provide patrons with high quality fare at reasonable prices.” It also asks the operator to properly maintain the facilities and equipment and meet all codes and health standards and county rules and regulations.

It further requires that the winning applicant make mandatory improvements to the facility, which is located adjacent to the ice casino and overlooks the water. Those include upgrading plumbing and electrical systems, renovating bathrooms and the kitchen, power washing the interior and exterior, replacing damaged wood and patio slate and painting.

The RPF raises a possibility which some prospective operators might find intriguing: “While the current operation coincides with the operation of the amusement park, the location could support a multi-season full-service restaurant.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer had previously told the Business Journal that his administration would be examining ways to expand activities at Playland following its cancellation of the contract for Standard Amusements to take over operation of the amusement park.

The county requires that those making a proposal have at least 10 years of continuous experience as an owner and operator of a food concession or restaurant business with annual gross sales of more than $2.5 million. It also requires that any personnel who will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the facility have at least 10 years prior experience in the concession and restaurant industry.

Responses to the RFP are due on Nov. 22.


  1. Why is Westchester County in the Amusement Park business?

    Did Playland lose money this year or is it making money for the county now?

    If its a loss, then Latimer shouldn’t never had the county take it back over.


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