Tailwind Deli in a tailspin
September 22, 2006
Pitkin County denied Aspen resident Doug Clayton’s appeal to continue the lease on his Tailwind Deli at the airport.Clayton admitted making a mistake: He failed to complete the paperwork in time to sign up for another five-year lease. On Oct. 14, the concession contract will go to News and Gift Shops International, a Texas corporation that now runs a gift shop in the airport.”All somebody had to do was call me,” Clayton said. And in the past, he said, “they would have.”Clayton said County Manager Hilary Fletcher Smith’s response to the appeal was terse and did not answer his questions about the decision.Clayton asked the county to grant him the lease for another five years and keep the business in the hands of a local resident rather than hand it to a large company. Clayton took on the airport concession just after Sept. 11, 2001, when no one was interested in investing in airports. He said he’s run the business successfully for five years and would like to continue.The letter denying Clayton the contract lists the criteria the county was looking for to fill the concession. A group of county employees and airport authorities rated Clayton’s and NGSI’s proposals on their marketing and promotion plans, financial projections, company background, experience and financial capability, and restaurant design, concept and menu.Clayton said there was not a restaurant expert on the committee that made the decision on his proposal, and he feels that the committee should review proposals from local residents more carefully.In response to his appeal, Smith said local proposals were given no special weight and that there was “nothing inappropriate” about the selection process.Clayton has the right to a further appeal with Pitkin County commissioners, but that will cost him $3,816 on top of a large deposit for the lease. Clayton said he earns more than 50 percent of his revenues during the winter, and, facing a bleak offseason in the interim, the added expense is too much.”I’m a small business,” Clayton said. “That’s a lot of money to me.”Clayton is frustrated. He said he would like to talk to county commissioners about his situation. But commissioners declined to discuss the matter with him because they might have to decide it in the future.”It’s over with,” Clayton said. “I don’t think it’s worth fighting.”He said he plans to turn his attention to making a smooth transition to the new owner and looking into other projects. Clayton said that larger companies coming into the Aspen area and taking over from locals is common. “It’s too bad, but it happens every day,” he said.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.