Travelers are shown in 2010 in the foodcourt at the Tom Bradley International… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Three lucrative food and beverage contracts were awarded to companies at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday, bringing an end to a three-year competition that critics complained was overly politicized.
The vote by the Los Angeles City Council concludes, for now, the effort to bring celebrity chefs and a more local flavor in food to LAX, which has received poor marks in consumer surveys. And it closes the book on a debate in which rival bidders staged protests and public tastings to make their case.
The council gave 10-year agreements to Host International, CMS/Camacho Ventures and Delaware North, which have promised to operate such venues as Loteria Grill, Campanile and Cole's, an eatery known for its French dip sandwich.
The proposal represents a big turnaround for Host, which was not recommended for any of the food and beverage contracts that were in play last year but snagged a piece of airport business this time.
Council members voted to award four restaurant contracts to Host's competitors at LAX in October. But they threw out the most valuable package after City Atty. Carmen Trutanich said in a legal opinion that a judge would probably reject any contract given to the then-winning bidder, SSP America. That opinion was prompted by a complaint from Host.
The seven-member airport commission launched a new search process. On the second try, Host was offered roughly 8,600 square feet of airport space, or about a third of the total that was at stake.
SSP America received nothing. That infuriated businessman Rod White, whose company, Bertha's Soul Food, was part of the SSP bid. "The finest chefs the city had to offer were awarded by LAX a contract, only to have it stripped away with the weapon of powerful ? lobbying" and "backroom deals," he said.
Host lobbyist John Ek was one of 10 hosts of an April 27 fundraiser for Trutanich's exploratory bid for district attorney. Trutanich campaign consultant John Shallman said Ek did not raise any money or give any contributions at the event.
Under the new agreements, Host International will operate in Terminal 4 and include Starbucks and L.A. Gourmet Street Truck.
CMS/Camacho Ventures will occupy Terminals 7 and 8 and feature such venues as Seven Grand, Yogurtland and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Delaware North will occupy Terminal 5 and feature Loteria Grill and Three Dog Bakery.
Airport officials said they hope last year's winning bidders will begin opening their venues by December. The council will probably cast a new round of votes on LAX eateries next year, when new restaurant deals are recommended for the Theme Building, Terminal 2 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal.