City of Coral Gables closes country club on Day 1 for termite tenting, repairs

The city of Coral Gables is in charge of the Coral Gables Golf and Country Club now — and it’s closed for at least a month. So, no Mother’s Day brunch.

The Granada Golf Course and tennis center remain open. For now, anyway.

A sign outside the country club Monday said it will be closed “during the month of May due to change of ownership.”

City Manager Peter Iglesias sent a message to the neighbors of the club explaining the closure.

“Today the city began operating this iconic and historic property and  we are currently conducting a complete building assessment to determine repair and maintenance needs. Our goal is to reopen as soon as possible,” Iglesias wrote, avoiding a date. 

Read related: Nevermind! Coral Gables settles dispute with Country Club operators

“Following our assessment, termite tenting will take place which will have a slight impact on the current roofing project. Additional repairs and improvements including pool and landscaping are also planned which will enhance and beautify the facility,” he said.

“We are also pleased to announce that  the current leased fitness equipment will be maintained until the new state-of-the-art Technogym equipment arrives,” Iglesias wrote, adding that the city will provide fitness insructors with “temporary access” to the equipment and space at the War Memorial Youth Center to serve clients.

Ladra asked the city spokeswoman what the new TechnoGym equipment cost — it is the official brand of the Biltmore Hotel, after all — but did not get an answer Monday.

Iglesias also said there would be two open houses planned for later this month. Post tenting, probably.

Read related: Fight over Coral Gables Country Club escalates with eviction and seizure

“We are working diligently to reopen this facility,” said Fred Couceyro, the parks and rec director. His department will now manage the club.

In March, the city commission got an updated operations plan including new fitness membership fees and banquet rental rates, which could increase 5% every other year. The Commission approved the new club fees as well as the implementation of Phase 1, which includes the funding of the fitness center, pool, and banquet hall rentals.

This includes the hiring of 31 new city employees — seven full-time and 24 part-time positions — with a projected personnel expense of $1.8 million. These employees may also be put on the city’s pension, which will end up costing the city more.

Phase II will include the transition for the cafe space, the tennis and golf memberships, and programming.

City leaders either really believe they can better manage the club on the city-owned historic property than the prior vendor, Coral Grand — a Toronto-based company that won the contract in 2011 — or they are biting their nose to spite their collective face. This is the culmination of an inside deal gone awry and a dispute that climaxed last month when the city seized the contents of the club in an effort to “protect” the assets.

Read related: Coral Gables Country Club grab deal is dead as Rodney Barreto group backs out

But the contents did not belong to the city, which was in negotiations to purchase furniture, kitchen equipment and fixtures from the operators and used the receivership to strong arm them. Coral Grand and the city eventually came to an agreement where the city would purchase the contents.

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The city did not want to renew the contract last year and has been accusing the Di Donato family operating the club of hiding profits to pay lower participation rent (read: stealing). The city cancelled the automatic renewal of the lease, saying the operators defaulted. They requested proposals and the only bid came from a group of investors led by the politically-connected Rodney Barretto. It was withdrawn after a lot of backlash from the community rejecting what everyone thought was an inside deal that would change the old-school, neighborhood character of the country club.

Rather than rework a deal with the Di Donatos, the city decided it would end up operating the place itself. At least now they have the books, the bank statements and other documents they need to complete an audit the mayor said last October had begun.

Let’s see if they find more than termites.