Friday, April 13, 2012

McAlister's at airport's new terminal to close

McAlister’s Deli at Monroe Regional Airport will be closing this month.

Tom Janway, the city’s public works director, confirmed the restaurant will be closing because it isn’t making enough money.

Airport officials had wooed McAlister’s to set up at the airport months ago, and had even made accommodations to make the offer more attractive to them, they have said in the past. When the plans for the new terminal were first made, the city was only looking at having a cold sandwich shop.

“Looking long-term at the airport needs, it was determined that the airport needed a full-service restaurant,” Phillips later said in January, so the space for what was going to be the sandwich shop had to be moved and additional plumbing, electrical work and a Dumspter pad had to be installed to make it compliant with health standards.

“In our initial council meeting, what Mr. Janway had initially said is that at a lot of these airports around the country, they come in and do their own finishing, but when we at a smaller airport are trying to attract something like McAlister’s or even a local restaurant, they can’t come in with architects. We have to furnish it to make it more attractive for them,” explained Nikhil Joshi, a project coordinator and strategic planning consultant who was hired by the airport at that time.

Thus the establishment of the restaurant and a bar, the Southern Girls Saloon, which is still open at the airport, added $609,033 to the city’s contract with Lincoln Builders of Ruston, city officials have said.

“There’s not a lot of money to be made in an airport setting like that in the restaurant (business),” Janway said on Friday when he confirmed the closure.

Phillips said McAlister’s met the “out” clause stated in its contract, which was to give 30 days notice before closing.

City Attorney Nanci Summersgill said McAlister’s was current on all of its rent payments through March.

McAlister’s had paid the city $600 in rent each month. As of information from the airport provided on April 7, the deli’s last rent payment was made on March 14.

Phillips said the airport is in discussions with other businesses to set up a restaurant in that space, and that many have shown interest.

As of 4 p.m. Friday, a call to McAlister’s corporate office was not returned.

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