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Clashes Over Love Field Airport Concession Contracts

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
Bud is the most veteran reporter at CBS 11 News with 42 years in m...
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Eleven new gates will open up at Dallas Love Field Airport next year and councilmembers are being asked to sign off on the system of awarding concessions stand sites to vendors.

But some businesses that lost out in the process, say the decision-making wasn’t fair.

“A lot of politics, a lot of politics, you know?” claimed James Runnels, one of the two “podners” in Two Podners Bar-B-Que.

Fellow owner Fred Conwright agreed. “It’s a [an awards] process that we’re still trying to figure out how they did what they did, how they come about it.”

Two Podners Bar-B-Que is a South Dallas icon. The restaurant also sells sandwiches and food at four convenience stores that operate at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

But the podners claim they didn’t get a fair shot at the new Love Field, only an offer to sell sports apparel.

“I don’t know the score card,” Conwright said, speaking of the awards process. “ I don’t know what the scorecard said, but we bid (ed) on five packages and they only offered us one store, which was a specialty store.”

He added that a business, “…can’t survive in any airport in the country with one specialty store.”

Friday, Two Podners turned the city bid down.

Tuesday, the airport’s director and the first assistant city manager briefed two council committees on the status of the concessions awards.

“A good concessions program is absolutely critical to us at the airport,” said Airport Director Mark Duebner. “We think the best thing we can do for our vendors is to give them quality information that will make them competitive,” he told the council before informing them of the Two Podners’ decision to rescind its bid.

Two years ago Conwright was among those who complained concessions were a sweetheart system; favoring vendors already entrenched there.

“We experienced at the time that the incumbents had everything and we wanted the opportunity to at least bid on it,” Conwright said, of the situation in 2010.

The city later came up with a complicated system, including a lottery, to reward loyal concessionaires who’ve stayed on during the economic uncertainly of terminal construction but still opening up the bidding to competition.

Councilmembers were told the process was open.

Tennell Atkins agreed. “We’ve got to be transparent,” he told CBS 11 News. “We’ve got to be fair for everybody. And so we’re going to be open to the public and we’re not going to be closed out to the public.”

Conwright doesn’t agree, but says it’s time to move on.

“We just asked for equal opportunity to be part of the concessionaires.”

Runnels claimed that if their concept had been approved, it would be a success at Love Field.

“We’d have brought something that the passengers would’ve been well pleased with. We brought our concept, if we were allowed to do that they’d have been well pleased with it.”

Two Podners customer Andre Tean feels that a good company came in on the short end of the deal.

“I think it’s not really a fair shake. The little man? You gotta give him a chance to prove himself,” Tean told CBS 11 News. “Everybody deserves an equal opportunity –a chance—to make it.”

A third council committee is set to be briefed on Love Field Airport concessions next week; the full council is set to take up the issue on March 7.

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