Hartsfield-Jackson to rebid airport restaurant contracts

The city of Atlanta plans to rebid contracts for restaurants at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in December, following years of delays and controversy.

A possible new local preference provision could give a leg up to local businesses this time.

The city has been trying since 2016 to strike contracts for a revamp of restaurants throughout Concourse E. Contracts for a refresh of retail shops throughout the airport, along with a couple of new restaurants on Concourse B, have been delayed since 2017.

In December 2018, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms pledged that the contracts would be rebid in 2019.

“We’re going to start over,” Bottoms told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time, adding that questions about the integrity of the city’s procurement process needed to be addressed before the contracts were rebid.

Airport concessions have been tangled up up for years in a federal investigation into corruption at Atlanta City Hall and a series of controversies.

Last year, former chief procurement officer Adam Smith was sentenced to prison for his role in a cash-for-contracts scandal.

The city introduced reforms to the city's procurement process by early 2019 and held an industry day in March for those interested in airport concessions contracts.

But the process still didn’t move forward.

In May, Hartsfield-Jackson concessions director Charles E. "Chilly" Ewing Sr. was fired for allegedly sexually harassing women who worked at the airport.

Last month, the city's former contract compliance officer Larry Scott pleaded guilty to wire fraud after federal prosecutors said he was paid $220,000 over five years from an undisclosed side business that helped companies get government contracts.

Current chief procurement officer David Wilson said the process for new restaurants on Concourses E and B will start in December, while contracting for retail shops will start early next year.

“I wanted to make sure we did this right,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the city has a new system of posting synopses of upcoming city contracts on its website to “level the playing field” by helping small businesses to get more time to prepare to bid on contracts.

synopsis posted on the city's procurement department website outlines plans to seek proposals from companies to build and operate food and beverage concessions at Hartsfield-Jackson. Companies would compete for nine packages of food and beverage locations for 10-year contracts with a city option for a three-year renewal.

Legislation for a local preference provision is currently on hold in Atlanta City Council, but if it is passed before the contracting process begins, it would “allow for the local Atlanta-based businesses to be able to compete more heavily for the concessions contracts,” Wilson said. The city already has a local preference provision for competitive bid projects and the legislation could extend it to all city contracting including requests for proposals used in airport concessions contracting.