City Council approves airport vendor contracts

Marathon session results in approval of restaurants such as Varsity, Varasano’s, Ludacris’ ‘Chicken n’ Beer’


After more than seven hours of heated debate, legislative confusion, and even some unexpected drama, the Atlanta City Council voted 12-3 to award multi-billion contracts to 150 restaurants and retail shops wanting to move into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and its new international terminal.

The proposals, which include such local eateries such as The Varsity, Varasano’s Pizzeria, TWIST, and undergarment powerhouse Spanx (yes!), will fill nearly all existing and new retail and food and beverage spaces at the world’s busiest airport. (Ludacris announced on Twitter shortly after the city approved the contracts that he’s behind the quizzical Chicken n’ Beer concept.)

Councilmembers including Yolanda Adrean pushed today for what amounted to a long work session during which airport and procurement officials answered general questions about the vendor selection process. The move aimed to answer calls from some citizens and watchdog groups such as Common Cause of Georgia and the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation which, over recent months, have expressed concerns about a lack of transparency in the procurement program.

When councilmembers’ questions ventured too close for legal comfort — several vendors have apparently already filed protests against the city with more sure to follow — City Attorney Cathy Hampton warned they were getting “too deep in the weeds” and recommended discussing the topics during an executive session.

Mayor Kasim Reed stressed just before adjournment for dinner that Council’s OK was vital. He said any delay could cost the airport millions of dollars in lost rent and concession revenue and endanger the city’s plan to repay bonds issued to build the $1.5 billion international concourse that officials hope to unveil in spring.