Steamboat Springs Food service has been restored to the secure passenger waiting areas at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, but the second-story HDN Paradise Bar & Grill will not reopen this winter.
Airport Manager Dave Ruppel notified Trini Riley, the owner of the airport’s only full-service restaurant, in writing Dec. 15 that she was in default on her concession agreement for failure to pay rent, and he called on her to remove her personal property from the restaurant by Dec. 22.
However, the Routt County Board of Commissioners, convinced that it was the best way to quickly restore food service to travelers, authorized Ruppel and County Attorney John Merrill to pursue a negotiated lease settlement with Riley.
Ruppel told the commissioners that Hayden businessman Charlie Epp already has begun serving deli sandwiches, chips and soda in the passenger waiting areas, where Riley previously had a second food-service facility. The full-service restaurant will not reopen this winter because county regulations require Ruppel to advertise for proposals, and by the time that formal process had been observed, ski season would be all but over.
However, Ruppel said it would be beneficial to service at the airport if Epp could acquire Riley’s refrigerators, freezers and stainless-steel food preparation tables as his staff works to quickly close the gap in food service at the airport this month during the height of the ski season.
“If we didn’t have the equipment, we might have to buy it, or not have the service,” Ruppel said.
Epp is working on providing a menu of hot sandwiches as early as this week, and he hopes to be cleared to begin serving beer and wine in the secure waiting areas, perhaps by next week, Ruppel said.
Epp already has a separate concession agreement that allows him to serve stand-up breakfasts including breakfast burritos, pastries and coffee drinks from Charlie’s Chuck Wagon, adjacent to passenger check-in lines outside the airport’s secured areas.
Ruppel said the concession agreement between Riley and the county includes a surety clause that would allow them to pursue roughly half the $35,000 rent for the four-month ski season from December through March. However, Ruppel and Merrill agreed that the time spent pursuing the funds might not bear fruit, and in the meantime, customer service at the airport might suffer.
“I want people to know this is a priority for us as well as the airport commission,” County Commissioner Doug Monger said.
The airport stands to lose $17,500 backed by a letter of credit in the concession agreement, plus its 15 percent share of sales at the restaurants, softened by a smaller percentage of sales called for under Epp’s concession agreement.
A negotiated settlement implies that the county would accept restaurant equipment with an estimated value of $8,000 to $22,000 in exchange for not pursuing surety.
Ruppel said some of the equipment would be useful when the county opens a new restaurant space in time for ski season 2011-12.
Reached by phone Monday evening, Riley said she would withhold comment until after she speaks to Ruppel today.
“In my mind, It’s about getting through this year, and this is our opportunity to improve on service,” County Manager Tom Sullivan said. “I know we’ll take a loss, but the loss is to the self-funded airport, not the county general fund. In essence, we’d lose out on setting aside money for the capital fund.”