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Flight Lounge begins bar service

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Air Center restaurant service expected to start in January

A long-awaited Roswell airport business had its “soft opening” this week, with customers able to pull up a seat at the bar — or sip a beverage while on an airplane bench seat.

The Flight Lounge Bar, Winery and Restaurant inside the airport terminal building served its first bar customers Thursday.

The concept has been developed by the Ragsdale family, which operates Pecos Flavors Winery & Bistro at the corner of Lea Avenue and West Second Street, and the new location is including the word “winery” in its name because it will offer the New Mexico wines that Pecos Flavors also serves.

The restaurant and convenience-dining service of the operation are expected to open by early January, said General Manager Larry Skains, who is taking on his first restaurant management position with the Flight Lounge after training for a few months at Pecos Flavors and The Liberty, a social club also co-owned by the Ragsdales.

The restaurant will have a hot menu and “average restaurant prices” for people who want to be seated and eat at the restaurant, call in and pick up an order, or have catered events at locations within the Roswell Air Center.

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The food will be “southwestern New Mexico with a southern flair,” Skains said, explaining that chef Harold Simmons is from Alabama and will bring some of his native touches to the mix. Skains and Simmons are among eight employees of the operation at this point.

A full-service breakfast menu to include such items as pancakes, eggs and bacon, and breakfast croissants will begin at 5:30 a.m., with the bar opening at 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m on Sunday.

“Everything we are doing is really hearty, wholesome,” Skains said.

Lunch will begin about 11 a.m. and will feature such foods as hamburgers — including a ribeye burger — burritos and sandwiches. Happy Hour will be from 3 to 6 p.m.

The evening hours are “evolving,” but Skains said he expects the bar probably will stay open until 9 p.m. He said he and others are remaining “flexible” at this point about whether hot food will be served in the evenings.

Given its location in the airport, the Flight Lounge also will have a convenience section, where people can pick up freshly prepared but packaged sandwiches, wraps, salads, parfaits, cookies or other items to take with them to the waiting area or elsewhere. Fresh fruit and coffee with free refills also will be available.

Skains and Joshua Ragsdale said they think that people will welcome having a new restaurant in an area of Roswell that does not have many other food and beverage operations.

“People have been very excited that they can at least come out here and have a coffee or an adult beverage,” said Joshua Ragsdale. “The options are kind of limited in this area, so we are adding more choices. And I think we will be serving not only this area, but also Dexter, Midway and East Grand Plains.”

Skains added that they already have been asked to do catering for some corporate flights and Air Center visitors.

The city of Roswell, which owns and operates the airport, has been working to develop a restaurant for a couple of years. It began searching for potential operators in July 2017 when it issued a Request for Proposals, and city leaders approached the Ragsdales in fall 2017 when no viable responses were received. The Ragsdales had asked about the RFP, but had not submitted a response.

The Roswell City Council voted to approve a lease with the Ragsdales in March 2018, and construction to renovate the 1,685 square feet of space began in earnest this August, after some stops and starts.

The cost of the renovation has been about $350,000, according to Facilities Manager Trent Moore, more than double what the city had originally estimated for the project, partly because costs increased to meet current building codes. The city also has reserved several parking spaces in the airport parking lot specifically for Flight Lounge customers.

The two-year lease agreement with the Ragsdales calls for their business to make escalating payments, starting at $100 a month for six months, increasing to $200 a month for the lease and liquor license until the end of the first year, and reaching $550 a month for the lease and license in year two.

The airport terminal building has had several restaurants and bars since it was built in 1975, but it has been many years since the last coffee shop closed.

City officials have said that food and beverage service is expected to enhance what the airport has to offer commercial airline passengers, as well as be a draw for Air Center businesses and local residents.

“We are excited that this project is finally nearing completion and the wait is worth it,” City Manager Joe Neeb said. “The vision for our partnership with the Ragsdale Family was to provide a quality service and a local experience to all who visit the Air Center terminal. That vision has been exceeded and will be enjoyed by many in the years that come.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.