An attorney and restaurateur from Everett has offered to outbid the Red Sox for a license to sell food and drink along Yawkey Way on game days at Fenway Park, throwing a curveball at the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s exclusive negotiations with the ball club.
Joseph P. Marchese Jr. wrote a letter to the BRA last month — one day after the Globe reported that the Sox were seeking a permanent extension of their current concession rights — saying he would pay $3 million for a 10-year contract. His offer is roughly double the annual rate paid by the Sox since the franchise began leasing the public street during the 2003 baseball season.
Marchese shared the letter with the Globe after the BRA failed to acknowledge his bid within four weeks, and said he is considering suing the agency on the grounds that he is being denied “the opportunity to be competitive and make a living.”
Marchese, 66, said he would sublet space on Yawkey Way to private food vendors approved by the BRA and might reserve a couple of food stations for himself. He once owned The Line Steak and Brew and another restaurant in Everett, but sold both in the 1980s and has since been out of the food service industry.
Marchese has never operated an outdoor food court like the one currently run by the Sox in partnership with concession giant Aramark Corp.
Susan Elsbree, a spokeswoman for the redevelopment authority, declined to comment on whether the agency will consider Marchese’s bid, saying only that the BRA will not negotiate in the press or discuss potential legal action.
Marchese’s offer has recaptured the attention of the state inspector general’s office, which wrote to the BRA last year saying that renewing the Red Sox’s Yawkey Way license could open the agency to a legal challenge.
Jack Meyers, a spokesman for Inspector General Glenn A. Cunha, said in a statement that “a fair and open competitive process always yields the best result for taxpayers. The inspector general continues to encourage the city of Boston to seek fair market value for the surface rights to Yawkey Way.”
Cunha’s predecessor, Gregory W. Sullivan, wrote in a December letter that the BRA’s claim to rightfully control the street is dubious because it is based on a determination that the thriving area around Fenway Park is a slum in need of redevelopment. If the city grants another license after the Red Sox contract expires at the end of this season, it should conduct open bidding, he added.
The BRA has said it disagrees with the legal analysis of the inspector general’s office and is moving ahead with negotiations for an extension. The original deal has been in effect for the last 11 seasons, allowing the Sox to close a segment of Yawkey Way four hours before every home game and use the street as a ticket gate and outdoor food court.
The low license fee has been reasonable, the Sox asserted in a letter to the BRA last fall, because the club has paid $56.7 million in property, sales, and meals taxes since John W. Henry’s ownership group bought the team in 2002. In addition, it is the Red Sox, themselves, that make a Yawkey Way license valuable by drawing 35,000 people to the area 81 times per year.
The original arrangement was not subject to the state’s open bid law because the BRA — technically independent of the city government — took control of the street by eminent domain and labeled the Red Sox deal a demonstration project meant “to protect against urban blight.”
To sign another no-bid contract with the Sox, the BRA would have to exercise its eminent domain power again, maintaining that the strip of Yawkey Way is a blighted area.
Marchese, who runs a law practice in Revere, contends that such a designation is “ridiculous and a means to circumvent the open bid law.”
“My take is if it’s a public way and we’re all taxpayers, we should have the same right to bid as the Red Sox,” said Marchese, a former alderman in Everett.
In his letter to the BRA, Marchese said he would pay $1.5 million upfront for the Yawkey Way license and another $1.5 million over the first six years of a deal.
The proposed contract’s average annual fee of $300,000 is twice the original price of $150,000 paid by the Red Sox. The Sox also received air rights over Lansdowne Street, where they built the popular Green Monster seating section, for an additional $15,000. Fees for both streets have increased slightly each year, tracking the local consumer price index, and the team asked the BRA to extend its license permanently under the same pricing system.
Asked if the Red Sox are prepared to beat Marchese’s offer, a team spokeswoman declined to comment.
Buying a game-day license to sell concessions on Yawkey Way has proven to be a lucrative investment. The Red Sox have grossed an average of $2.2 million per year on the street over the past three seasons and reported in a November letter to the BRA that “those totals were significantly less than gross revenues in prior years.”Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.