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Council Could Decide Airport Concessions

Joe Vinson

  The Pensacola City Council could take a final vote Thursday evening, on a concessions deal for Pensacola International Airport. A vote would end a four-month layover.

In this corner, Pensacola Brands – featuring the Fish House, Bagelhead’s and Varona’s, and backed by New York-based Creative Food Group. In the other corner, OHM Foods – a Missouri-based firm representing Chick-fil-A, Corona Beach House, Surf City Squeeze and Einstein Brothers Bagels.

And the choice for the ten-year, $1.8 million contracts, selected by a five-member committee , is -- OHM.

Airport Director Greg Donovan told the City Council last September, that while community involvement took up a great deal of the discussion, this is a “bottom line” business decision. He adds that restaurants which succeed in an overall community environment, don’t necessarily have what it takes to succeed in an airport setting.

“When you have a short period of time to connect to your flights -- and we are not a ‘hub’ location, we are an ‘origin and destination’ airport,” said Donovan, “there are other considerations to take into account.”

Besides the $1.8 million outlay, OHM also has guaranteed the city a minimum annual fee of nearly $400,000. If projected annual sales goals are met, that goes to $460,000. Creative Food Group’s offer was $1.7 million, and guaranteed $300,000 in annual revenue.

The contract is being revisited about a week after Fish House owner Collier Merrill and businessman Ray Russenberger filed suit against the city, over the Fish House and Atlas Oyster Bar’s lease of the city-owned Pitt’s Slip property.

Mayor Ashton Hayward is recommending that the council award the contract to OHM.  Councilman Charles Bare, who plans to challenge Hayward in this year’s mayoral election, wants to extend Varona’s contract at the airport that runs out in March.

The Pensacola City Council meets at 5:30 Thursday afternoon at City Hall.