Beach goers congregate around the Efstathious family concession stand at Salt Creek Beach on a weekend day. Credit: Norberto Santana, Jr.

A battle over a snack stand concession at Salt Creek Beach led to a debate Tuesday among Orange County Supervisors about how the county handles small concession contracts.

The supervisors voted 3-1 to leave the concession with the current operator, John Efsatathiou, who has held it for decades and developed a loyal following among Dana Point locals.

Efsatathiou withstood a challenge from another beach concessionaire, Mike Ali, who runs a series of food spots along the coast.

Ali seemed to work behind-the-scenes connections having a series of lawmakers advocate for his business proposal. Efsatathiou worked the local community flooding officials with letters of support, online petitions and even a facebook page run by his two daughters.

“What is compelling in this particular item, is that the role of our commissioners and elected officials are to hear the people. And in this item, I don’t think its been heard any better,” said Supervisor Pat Bates who ardently defended Efsatathiou’s stewardship of the stand, which is in her district.

Bates also said the debate said a lot about the differences in beach-going experiences between Huntington Beach and Dana Point.

Supervisor John Moorlach stood in stark contrast to Bates defiantly saying, “I’m on the other side of this discussion.”

He noted that it’s sometimes a good thing to change concessions, such as with the case of the county’s own cafeteria.

Then Moorlach asked a series of questions about the whole proposal process. If Efsatathiou was doing such a good job, and the concession offers a low rent, then why make the concessionaire, county staff or county supervisors go through a process that seems better suited to a large concession.

“Maybe we need to reevaluate how we do this,” Moorlach said. “It gets really interesting when you have a person whose sole livelihood depends on the concession.”

Supervisors Chairwoman Janet Nguyen, however, defended the process saying it just needs a bit of tweaking citing issues with the oral and written interviews. “I think we have a good process and a good system,” she said.


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