Kathryn’s Lounge, a locally owned restaurant at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport, is closing this month after 19 years of business. It will be replaced, pending City Council approval, by Tailwind, a chain that specializes in airport concessions.
Kathryn’s isn’t vacating on good terms with the city.
The restaurant’s owner, Kathryn Anderson, had no intention of closing the business but she had to give up the spot when she didn’t renew her lease when it expired earlier this year and, this summer, the airport invited new businesses to bid on the space.
Anderson didn’t renew her lease when former Airport Director Craig Davis announced he was leaving the post earlier this year. She said the city attorney told her to wait until the new director started so that she could work out a deal with them.
Both City Attorney Randy Fife and Assistant City Attorney Michael Kirkham told the Post Register they’d never talked to Anderson.
Anderson, 61, is the sole owner of Kathryn’s, a restaurant and bar. She took over the bar, which is attached to the restaurant, in 1999 and Dolores Casella, the former owner of the restaurant, sold the restaurant to Anderson in 2001.
Anderson also operates the airport gift shop and the post-security snack bar upstairs, which is her most profitable asset, she said.
City officials said former airport director Davis put Kathryn’s on a month-to-month lease after Anderson didn’t respond to a 90-day notice to renew the restaurant’s five-year deal, according to city public information officer Bud Cranor.
Davis left Idaho Falls in February to take a job in Hawaii and when the new airport director, Rick Cloutier, took over in May, he began looking for restaurants to replace Kathryn’s Lounge.
In August, the airport released a 36-page request for proposals on the space, with requirements for minimum annual revenue (including a percentage of profits that goes to the airport), specific hours of operation based on flight schedules and a commitment to make out-of-pocket improvements to concession area.
The request for proposal required that the concessions be open seven days per week and open each day 90 minutes prior to the first scheduled departure and close no sooner than 30 minutes before the last scheduled flight departs.
Cloutier said he was also looking for a business that could maintain its own equipment. The city currently shares maintenance responsibility with Kathryn’s.
Anderson said she couldn’t meet the RFP requirements, calling them “outrageous.” She said she mailed Cloutier one copy of a bid with her own terms. (The request for proposal specified five copies and a digital version were required.)
Cloutier said he never received Anderson’s proposal.
“We definitely encouraged her to apply,” Cloutier said. “We would’ve accepted her proposal just like any others.”
Kathryn’s has four employees, including Anderson’s daughter, Kristina Anderson, 37, who has worked there since 2001 and now manages the restaurant.
Kristina Anderson said the city should’ve better communicated about the situation.
“It would’ve been different if they had told us, let us know, talked to us, something,” Kristina Anderson said. “It’s kind of getting stabbed in the back and my throat slit at the same time.”
Kathryn Anderson said the restaurant doesn’t just serve airline passengers but airport employees and locals, too.
“We have a lot of regulars,” Kathryn Anderson said. “I just can’t imagine why they would want to get rid of something that works. We just don’t know what happened.”
Richard and Shawna Fowler, 65, of Idaho Falls, have been Kathryn’s customers since it became a full-service restaurant. Richard Fowler said he was a patron of Doc’s, Anderson’s former business on West Broadway.
“When she left there and came here I thought ‘What the heck, I should go try it out,’” he said. “The food’s outstanding and always has been and there’s various things on the menu that we’ve tried and enjoyed. It’s been a quiet atmosphere. You don’t have a whole bunch of background noise and lots of crowds screaming and you can just come, sit and relax and enjoy yourself.”
The city instructed Kathryn’s to vacate the premises by the end of the month, Kathryn Anderson said. In the meantime, she’s looking at available spaces to open a new restaurant in town.
“We’ve got a few prospects,” she said.
Tailwind, a Denver and Wilmington, N.C.-based company with concessions in at least 17 airports around the country, will sign a five-year lease on Anderson’s former space.
Cloutier said the airport will increase profits with the new vendor.
“I think it will really bring another level of service for our passengers,” he said.
Tailwind agreed to spend about $150,000 in upgrades, including kitchen and bar renovations to the snack bar in the post-security area, which currently doesn’t serve hot food, Cloutier said.
“We were looking for something that’s going to bring the concessions to a new level at the airport,” he said. “More choices, more opportunities for different types of food, one that’s going to do an expansion up in the gate area.”
Cloutier said Tailwind has a lot of experience in airports similar in size to Idaho Falls’ airport.
Tailwind is expected to open, with limited service, Dec. 1, according to Cloutier.
The City Council planned to vote on the agreement with Tailwind on Thursday.