Boathouse to Sue Government Agency
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 02:02
Jack’s Boathouse has taken the next step in its ongoing battle with the National Park Service, saying it will bring the agency to court by the end of this week.
“We’re filing against the NPS a very serious breach of lease ... lawsuits that are going to be extraordinarily expensive for the NPS to defend,” boathouse owner Paul Simkin said.
The government organization originally intended to evict the waterfront business from the property, but has since decided to place the eviction on hold.
Instead, the NPS announced Jan. 19 that the boathouse must bid for a concession contract because the business’ lease is invalid.
However, Simkin and his lawyer, Charles Camp, contend that the NPS does not have jurisdiction over the waterfront location; the District of Columbia government has ownership.
As of now, applications to submit a bid are due Feb. 6, and the NPS will announce the winner by the end of February.
If the boathouse’s case in the D.C. District Court fails, Simkin worries that Guest Services Inc., a Virginia-based conglomerate that manages food on the National Mall as well as two other area boathouses, could take the concession.
“The NPS … put out this really rushed request for a proposal saying that we could bid on our own boathouse, but it’s a subjective bid process,” he said. “It’s not based on numbers or success, but whether we [the NPS] want you there.”
Simkin maintains that he will fight to the end.
“The bottom line is we will not respond to that request to bid against ourselves. We will continue acting along with the lease we already have,” he said. “Anyone that bids against us we’re going to sue."
Various government officials have attempted to help resolve the situation, including Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
Evans has worked with Simkin and Camp to gain political support for the boathouse, while Norton sent a letter Jan. 24 to NPS Director John Jarvis advising that he sit down with Simkin and work toward finding a reasonable solution to the property dispute.
“While securing the best deal for the taxpayer, NPS has an obligation to explain its complicity in allowing significant investments in this property and then terminating the lease without notice,” Norton wrote in the letter. “NPS has an obligation to ensure fairness to Simkin, to the taxpayers, and to the community.”
Despite the ongoing conflict, Simkin said that he hopes to have the boathouse reopen in two weeks and operate while he fights for his business.
“We hate to take that approach but this is the livelihoods of a bunch of people,” he said. “We’re going to do what we have to do to preserve the boathouse.”
NPS did not respond to requests for comment.