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JWA concessioner gets support

County supervisors will vote on the 10-year contract in January.

December 16, 2010|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com

The Orange County Airport Commission voted 4 to 0 Wednesday to recommend keeping its current concessioner at John Wayne Airport, but with new restaurants like a Ruby's Diner and Zov's Bistro.

It also approved a new discount airline with service to Canada, and signed off on the airport's capacity plan for the coming year.

The same concessioner has been operating at JWA since the Thomas F. Riley Terminal opened in 1990. With that company's contract expiring and a new terminal under construction, the airport sought new proposals to fill restaurants, cocktail lounges and snack bars.

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If Wednesday's Airport Commission vote is then approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors, then HMSHost Corporation of Maryland would win the 10-year contract and the county-owned airport could take in $39.4 million. That's $15 million more than projected by its competitor, Delaware North Cos. of New York.

"$15 million is a lot of money not to pursue," said Commissioner Chris Welsh. "The rent difference was very significant, and hard to overlook in a public environment. You're not playing with your own money."

Besides revenue, the decision was based on the companies' selection of local and national restaurants, how they plan to renovate aging facilities in the existing terminals, and their concepts for the under-construction Terminal C.

HMSHost proposed locally-owned restaurants like Zov's and Ruby's, and a Hobie Hut, a surf-themed bar and grill run by Hobie Alter, the local water sports pioneer. The company also partnered with the Anaheim Ducks to create a sports-themed bar called Ducks Slapshot Bar & Grill.

"We're really pleased with the vote," said HMSHost spokeswoman Susan Goyette "We believe our offer of authentic Orange County restaurants and superior rent and investment in the airport is really the best proposal."

Delaware North recruited a John Wayne-themed restaurant run by Wayne's son, Ethan. Wahoo's Fish Taco, the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and a different surf bar, this one run by local surfing legend Corky Carroll, signed on with Delaware.

Ethan Wayne said he agreed to build the first John Wayne-branded restaurant, True Grit Grill and Rooster Cogburn Ft. Smith Saloon, because the current concession concepts were lacking.

"We all know the service that HMSHost has provided for the last 20 years," he said, "We would like to see the Board of Supervisors rethink this decision and bring the John Wayne name and brand to the airport."

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