By Jessica Sanchez and Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporters
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – The endless coastline and clear calm warm waters of Miami Beach attracts millions of visitors (and locals) of all ages each year. Recently, a program was launched by Boucher Brothers, the hospitality management company, to provide free beach chairs and umbrellas to senior residents ages 65 and over.
The company chose the beach behind the UNIDAD Community Center from 72nd to 73rd streets to offer the free service. Those interested must bring a valid ID to confirm residence and age, then are free to enjoy the complementary chairs and umbrellas from sunrise to sunset on Mondays through Thursdays.
Owner of Boucher Brothers, Steve Boucher, told MB Magazine, “I had been thinking of an initiative where we could give back to the community, catering to our seniors came to mind, and we jumped at the chance to allow them to truly enjoy our beautiful beaches.”
The program is attracting nearly sixty individuals weekly. In the coming months, the company plans to open a South Beach site at Lummus Park between 5th and 15th streets and offer their own programming, including lower-impact activities such as bocce ball or board games. Free WiFi is also in the works.
Boucher Brothers describes themselves as a Hospitality Management Company that specializes in a variety of outlets including pool, beach, food and beverage, water sports and team building activities.
The company currently owns a portfolio of over 100 hotels and condominium properties, 45 blocks of public beach throughout Florida’s east and west coasts, fifty blocks of public beach in Virginia Beach, and four beaches around Lake Michigan in Chicago.
According to Miami New Times, Boucher Brothers has had an exclusive concession agreement for all of Miami Beach’s public sand since 2001.
Boucher’s concession ran out in late 2011, and at that point the city commission quietly voted to waive the competitive bidding requirement and award the company a new, expanded contract.
At the time the then assistant city manager Hilda Fernandez said that sticking with Boucher Brothers was the easiest solution. “We already had a directive [from the commission] to pursue a non-motorized water sports concession in North Beach,” she says. “So we negotiated that as an additional service in the new agreement.”
As for the no-bid process, she said, “We are trying to limit how many people are driving on our public beaches.”