Hartsfield-Jackson launches massive contracting process for new restaurants

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is launching a new process to bid for restaurant contracts after a years-long delay because of a federal investigation into Atlanta City Hall and other problems.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had pledged to rebid the contracts last year, but said she wanted to clean up the process before the relaunch.

She is also working to avoid a potential takeover by the state. Some legislators, citing the problems, have proposed legislation that would take the airport away from the city. Hartsfield-Jackson is the world's busiest airport and an economic engine. Managing it carries prestige and business clout.

The concession bidding process has been on hold for years because of the investigation into corruption at city hall, including contracting, and because of other investigations and the departure of several highly placed airport employees.

In 2016, then-mayor Kasim Reed fired airport manager Miguel Southwell, which led to allegations of misdeeds on both sides, which the federal investigation looked into.

In 2018, Atlanta’s former chief procurement officer Adam Smith was sentenced to prison for his role in a cash-for-contracts scandal.

Last May, Hartsfield-Jackson concessions director Charles E. “Chilly” Ewing Sr. was fired after being accused of sexually harassing women who worked at the airport.

And Tuesday, a former top Atlanta contracting official who admitted to being paid more than $220,000 over five years to help companies win government contracts was sentenced to  two years in prison and ordered to pay $124,000 in restitution.

The new process will start with 10 contracts for food and beverage outlets, which would represent dozens of restaurants and vendors.

There are plans to let other contracts for more airport concessions, including retailers.

The airport plans to hold a pre-proposal conference and tour for interested companies Thursday, Jan. 16, at 9 a.m. at the Georgia International Convention Center.