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City negotiates to reopen airport bar, restaurant

The city is talking with a large food service company about reopening the restaurant and bar in the airport terminal building. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The city of Roswell is negotiating with a large food service company to run the grill and bar for the Roswell Air Center terminal building, as well as develop a “micro market” so travelers can grab a sandwich or other food from vending machines or some other type of convenience setting.

According to information from Steve Christopher, deputy director of the Air Center, the city is in talks with Summit Food Service LLC to run the first-floor food service area that operated as the Flight Lounge for only about three months before the pandemic and its restrictions on commercial airline flights and restaurant operations required its closure.

The Ragsdale family, which runs Pecos Flavors Winery & Bistro and The Liberty, had opened the Flight Lounge bar in December 2019 and its restaurant in January 2020 before having to close on March 18, 2020, due to the pandemic.

The group was asked by the city to run the bar and food service in February 2017 after the city’s Request for Proposals for a restaurant operator did not return responses that the city considered to be viable. The Roswell City Council approved the lease and business arrangement in March 2018.

Josh Ragsdale, an owner with Pecos Flavors Winery, said that his company was not running the airport restaurant because “COVID is still in effect and lack of staffing.”

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He said he had no comment on whether his group had been interested in current negotiations.

Rene Ruiz, Summit district manager, said that the company is in final negotiations with the city, depending on the approval of city councilors and city leadership.

“If all goes as anticipated, we will try to open around Nov. 1,” said Ruiz.

He said that the company is intending to run the bar, with a snack menu offered there, and operate a grill with a casual dining menu offering such items as hamburgers, steak sandwiches and salads.

He said the company also wants to offer food products, beers and wines produced locally “to help small businesses in the area.”

As phase two, which could start soon after obtaining the contract or a while later depending on equipment availability and other factors, the company also intends to offer a “micro market” inside the secure passenger area.

Ruiz explained the micro market is intended at first to be vending machines offering sandwiches and other food items. If the city enlarges the secure passenger area as has been discussed, Ruiz said, then the micro market could expand as well into a small, convenience-type store like those found in other airport terminals. Ruiz said Summit intends to pay for renovations.

Summit has been running the food operations for Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell since early 2021, according to Development Director Donna Oracion.

Summit’s parent company is the international Elior Group. Ruiz said it runs food operations in airports in France and Mexico, as well as in major cities in the United States.

The website for Elior North America indicates that it operates under various business names, including Summit, and it provides catering operations and also food operations inside higher education institutions, K-12 schools, senior living and health care facilities, cultural buildings such as art galleries and museums, and professional buildings.

Ruiz said Summit’s clients in this area include the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), Chaves County, New Mexico Youth Challenge Academy and several K-12 school districts.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.