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Current airport vendors to stay

County Board of Supervisors counter staff recommendation by voting in favor of keeping HMSHost Corp.

January 11, 2011|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com

The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to keep the current concessionaire at John Wayne Airport, but with new, locally owned restaurants like Ruby's Diner and Zov's Bistro.

The decision locks in bars, restaurants and snack shops at JWA for the next 10 years — both in the existing terminal, and in the under-construction Terminal C.

Countering an airport staff recommendation, the supervisors chose HMSHost Corp. of Maryland over its competitor, Delaware North Cos. of New York. Board members cited their preference of HMS Host's local restaurants and its higher rent — $39 million over the 10 years compared with its competitor's proposal of $34 million.

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"This is about the image of Orange County Airport and the image of Orange County," Supervisor Bill Campbell said. "I personally think it's our role to promote our local brands."

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.

While some of Delaware North's marquee restaurants were national (based on TV Food Network shows), the company recruited some locals as well. It has 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, also signed on with Delaware.

The airport staff had recommended Delaware, partially because of its attractive architectural renderings, staff members said.

"I think architecture is very important, but when I go to a restaurant, the quality of food is more important than the architecture," said Supervisor John Moorlach, who represents District 2, which includes the airport.

The supervisors also discussed the companies' revenue projections. Before the meeting, Delaware North had criticized HMSHost's figures, saying they were based on unrealistic sales figures.

Wahoo's Fish Taco co-founder Wing Lam spoke at the meeting and said HMSHost would have to charge high prices to meet its $39 million rent figures.

"We firmly stand behind our revenue projections," said Anthony Alessi, Vice President of Business Development for HMSHost.

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