Commissioners renew lease for Cody library cafe

Posted 4/22/21

Count the Point Cafe as among the businesses that saw their plans disrupted by COVID-19.

Virginia Scott’s restaurant, located inside the Cody library, had been open for just a couple months …

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Commissioners renew lease for Cody library cafe

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Count the Point Cafe as among the businesses that saw their plans disrupted by COVID-19.

Virginia Scott’s restaurant, located inside the Cody library, had been open for just a couple months when the pandemic forced everything to shut down.

However, Scott has now relaunched her operation, starting back up in early January. Open Monday through Friday, the Point Cafe offers coffee, breakfast items, sandwiches, smoothies, soups, salads, baked goods and other items to library patrons and the general public.

“It’s getting a little bit better,” Scott told Park County commissioners on April 6. “It was really slow at first, people [not] knowing that we’re back.”

Scott is expecting a strong spring and summer for her business, “but right now,” she said, “I’m losing about $250 a week.”

On a 3-1 vote, commissioners agreed to extend the Point Cafe’s lease within the library for another six months, at a rate of $250 a month.

Commissioner Lloyd Thiel voted against the renewal, suggesting the county should charge something closer to “the going rate” for other facilities in Cody. While saying he wanted the Point Cafe to succeed, “I want to support the local businesses more,” Thiel said. He argued the low rent amounts to a subsidy to a cafe that competes with and takes away from other establishments.

“My problem is using government property to subsidize private business in direct competition with private property businesses,” he said.

However, Scott — who runs the Point Cafe with her sons — said she doesn’t feel it competes with other businesses, particularly because it’s inside the Park County Library.

“The people that come to the cafe are really the people that are already in the library,” she said. “Most people don’t just come there as a restaurant of choice.”

Tucked back inside the facility, the space is different from other retail locations, in part because it’s limited to the Cody library’s hours. Perhaps illustrating the uniqueness, it took commissioners nearly two years to find a tenant for the space.

With the Point Cafe currently losing money, Commissioner Scott Mangold suggested it’d be better to think of the business as an amenity for library patrons.

“If she [Scott] starts making money, then maybe you can think about raising it up, but how much more can she really make?” Mangold asked. “This might be us just providing a service for the populace by allowing her to have that [cafe] there — and she’s the one losing money out of it instead of us.”

Commissioner Joe Tilden agreed. He referenced the fact that, when the library system ran the cafe on its own, it lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the years leading up to the Biblio Bistro’s closure in early 2018, the cafe ran an annual deficit that ranged between $47,000 and $55,000. Now, the county is avoiding those losses and receiving $3,000 a year in rental income.

Commissioners initially agreed to lease the space to the Point Cafe in the fall of 2019. In suggesting a six-month extension, Tilden suggested that the pandemic has so far prevented the cafe from seeing how the business will fare in the library. When the extension ends on Nov. 1, the commissioner said he’d like Scott to come before the board again and explain what rate she might be able to afford; Scott said that sounded fair.

“We certainly want you to be successful up there,” Tilden said.

The board finalized the lease on Tuesday.

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