Fate Of New LAX Concession Contracts To Be Continued...

By J. Patrick Coolican and Steve La

The fight over LAX concession contracts goes on, as a city board Thursday postponed a hearing on the lucrative airport food deal.

The only thing pretty much everyone can agree on in this battle is that the food at LAX is currently an embarrassment, when it should be introducing the entire world to the region's prandial culture.

The bidding process has been contentious, with several bidders fighting for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. LAX staff made recommendations to the City Council, which will determine who wins the contract. HMS Host, which has been running most LAX concessions since 1965, received the lowest scores on all of its bids.

But Host is fighting back, having appealed to the City Council's Board of Referred Powers for reconsideration. That's the board that postponed Thursday's meeting and will make recommendations to the full City Council after hearings. The Board of Referred Powers is made up of five City Council members and is chaired by Councilman Tony Cardenas. Host has hired lobbyists and a PR firm and contributed to campaigns, including the maximum $6,500 to Councilwoman Janice Hahn's failed campaign for lieutenant governor.

All told, LAX concession bidders and their lobbyists contributed $40,000 to Hahn, a member of the Board of Referred Powers, in her bid for lieutenant governor.

Councilman Cárdenas hosted a fundraiser earlier this month at the El Paseo Inn, a restaurant whose owners are partners with Host on an LAX bid. But Cardenas says that athough he'll host fundraisers at their restaurants, he won't actually take any money from potential bidders.

Host has reason to be happy with the delays, as it is the incumbent. If it can derail the whole process for awhile, it will remain the top vendor.

A rep from Councilman Cárdenas' office said the meeting has been rescheduled for August 5 at City Hall. Stay tuned.


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