Café Europa wins its bid but ‘Meddling Kids’ have an eye on city government
Café Europa has won its bid to remain in the Greensboro Cultural Center space it has occupied for 18 years.
“I’d like to thank the downtown community and the rest of Greensboro for their support,” said a relieved, if slightly exhausted, Jakub Pucilowski late Friday afternoon. Behind him, his restaurant echoed with the happy chatter of celebrating supporters.
Pucilowski’s winning bid was announced in a press release earlier that day by Rob Overman, executive director of the nonprofit public-private partnership Greensboro Downtown Parks, Inc. Last November, Assistant City Manager Chris Wilson created controversy with his decision to transfer ownership of the restaurant’s space from the city to GDPI, a move not made public until early January when GDPI issued a Request for Proposals to anyone interested in bidding on the restaurant space.
“After a thorough review of each competitive submission,” stated the press release, “the committee was highly impressed with Café Europa’s proposal and were unanimous in its recommendation to award the bid to the restaurant. GDPI will now work with the ownership of Café Europa to execute a formal contractual agreement.”
“Café Europa has been a stalwart of the downtown Greensboro restaurant community,” concluded Overman’s announcement. “Greensboro Downtown Parks looks forward to supporting this tradition while working to enhance the experience for visitors to LeBauer and Center City Parks, and the surrounding Cultural District.”
Shortly after 5 p.m. on Friday, Pucilowski was greeted with applause and hugs from his staff and customers when he entered the restaurant in which he has worked since 2001 and has owned since purchasing it from founder John Rudy in 2014. He looked happy, but also a bit worn out from spending the day with his lawyer. He told me that he was “grateful for the chance to demonstrate our bona fides even though I wish it wasn’t necessary.” He also said he looked forward to the coming week’s lease negotiations, “which will affirm at long last our place and allow us to emerge from two months of bunker mentality and clear up the future for both ourselves and the rest of downtown Greensboro.”
Jenn Graf and Allen Martin, who with Ciara Kelley organized the social media declarations described in my previous article ‘Voices of Greensboro’ raised in support of Café Europa, told me that they were overjoyed with GDPI’s decision to award the bid to Pucilowski. “I would also like to thank everyone for all their support for a local restaurant that adds so much to the downtown community,” Graf said. “We are over the moon with the outcome and overjoyed for the Cafe Europa fam!”
The situation might not have received public attention if not for the social media efforts of local metal and wood artisan Jeffrey Barbour. Barbour, a longtime Europa customer and a staunch critic of what he believes is the lack of transparency in the actions of the Greensboro City Council and GDPI, made the initial Facebook posts about Europa’s then-uncertain fate that went viral on Jan. 22. At the City Council meeting on Feb. 6, District 3 Representative Justin Outling and District 4 Representative Nancy Hoffmann expressed frustration with the social media outcry, as reported in my article Europa controversy comes to Greensboro City Council: Request for deadline extension shot down.
Those Meddling Kids, a newly-formed watchdog organization promoting local government transparency, has its eye on Wilson and the city council, Barbour told me on Friday night. The group’s founding members include Barbour, Julia Abrams and Matthew French.
“So a pale form of Justice has prevailed,” Barbour said. “The rightful owner of Cafe Europa gets to keep his business after being wrung out and tortured.” He called the result “magnificent,” but decried “all the nonsense it took to get the right thing done.”
Barbour said Those Meddling Kids “will begin a diligent campaign to create a system of consistent transparency in our city government. We aim to promote candidates who foster more openness and equanimity as well as make things much more uncomfortable for those who think about conducting the current customary shenanigans.”