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Ivar’s challenges loss of lease at Sea-Tac Airport as ‘fishy’

UPDATED: Fri., June 9, 2017, 12:08 p.m.

An American Airlines plane taxis near a group of planes from Alaska Airlines, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. An Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle was forced to return to Anchorage early Wednesday after a passenger locked himself in the bathroom, took off all his clothes, and refused to follow crew instructions. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
An American Airlines plane taxis near a group of planes from Alaska Airlines, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. An Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle was forced to return to Anchorage early Wednesday after a passenger locked himself in the bathroom, took off all his clothes, and refused to follow crew instructions. (Ted S. Warren / AP)

Sea-Tac Airport has decided that longtime tenant Ivar’s Fish Bar will no longer have a place at its central terminal – and Ivar’s is not keeping clam about it.

The seafood chain says it will fight a decision by airport staff not to award Ivar’s a spot after the latest round of competitive bids.

Ivar’s Fish Bar has been at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport since 2005, and has been named by various groups as among the best airport restaurants.

“Ivar’s Fish Bar is one of the most popular airport restaurants in the United States,” Bob Donegan, Ivar’s president, said in a news release. “There’s something very fishy here, and I don’t mean that in a good way.”

The restaurant has generated more than $5 million for the Port over its 12 years there, Donegan estimated.

Perry Cooper, a spokesman for the airport, said Ivar’s simply didn’t win the competitive bid process – one that was more competitive than ever.

“We have an open, transparent bid process,” Cooper said. “The idea is to allow new businesses to compete at the airport, to offer more opportunities for businesses, including small and minority-owned businesses, to get a space at the airport.”

Airport staff rated the bids on seven criteria including background/experience, concept, unit design, financial/rent proposal, management/staffing and operations, job quality/workforce development and small business participation.

“In this case, Ivar’s did not come up on top in the scoring system,” Cooper said. “The fact that they may have been successful in the past can help in various categories but it’s not a situation where they have right of first proposal because they’re here.”

The concessions chosen, revealed Wednesday, include eateries serving banh mi, sushi, fresh juice, burgers and cocktails.

But Ivar’s calls the airport’s evaluation system “fundamentally flawed” and the process “a travesty,” saying the Port did not consider actual performance in deciding whether to award a new lease.

Ivar’s Fish Bar produces some of the airport’s highest sales per square foot, and pays the Port some of the highest percentage sales, Donegan wrote in a letter to the Port’s interim CEO appealing the decision.

Donegan contended that the Ivar’s proposal was evaluated by Port staff without any experience with business, much less restaurants; that its bid was deemed both too short and too long at various points; and that it all pointed toward “a prejudice against Ivar’s proposal.”

“If the Port staff had fully and fairly evaluated Ivar’s proposal in the system they devised, we would have been renewed,” Donegan said in the news release.

The Port’s Cooper said Ivar’s could bid on more spots that are coming up in the summer.


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