Live music, food-truck fare, wine bars and craft beer may be the grist of entertainment in the North Loop or Lowertown, but not at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
But those are the kind of hipster sustenance, shops and amenities being considered by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to remake parts of the main thoroughfare and some concourses of Terminal 1 (Lindbergh) as well as part of Terminal 2 (Humphrey).
Many bear the signature of some of Minnesota’s most recognizable brands — ranging from Buffalo Wild Wings to the McNally Smith School of Music.
After nearly five hours of discussion Monday, a MAC subcommittee recommended a slate of new shops, restaurants and entertainment options that were hotly contested among the would-be concessionaires, some of which do business globally. Many were testily debated by commissioners — and more discussion is expected when the full commission takes up the proposals Aug. 17.
“There’s a good-size book of business here,” said Rick King, chair of the MAC’s Management and Operations Committee. Indeed, the trade publication Airport Revenue News estimates the concessions market in North America is $9 billion.
“It’s fair to say a certain percentage of people are not going to get what they’re looking for,” King said. Some of the state’s biggest brands and personalities were left behind, including a sports-bar concept pitched by the Minnesota Twins and a restaurant proposed by James Beard finalist Kim Bartmann.
The 169,000 square feet of concession space at the airport generates more than $180 million in annual sales and about $25 million in rent to the MAC. This round of renovation seeks to retool about 72,000 square feet, in about 50 different locations, with work beginning later this year.
MAC staff sought to increase participation by local businesses, reflect national trends such as craft beer and cocktails, increase duty-free shopping opportunities and attract national brands.
The Chili’s site in the main terminal will be replaced with a craft beer bar and restaurant developed by Twin Cities restaurateur Ryan Burnet and the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild. But the concession company offering the concept, St. Louis Park-based Aero Service Group Inc., has provoked the ire of a labor union trying to organize its operations at the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Led by two entrepreneurs who fled war-torn countries, the 10-year-old company posits itself as a family-centric firm that already operates the Cocina del Barrio restaurant at Terminal 2 in the airport, as well as Arby’s and Ben & Jerry’s outlets.
But Wade Luneburg, of UNITE HERE Local 17, said the firm refused to sign a labor peace agreement in its Minneapolis proposal, meaning the union would not engage in any strikes or pickets if the company agreed to provide employee information used in an organizing effort. Such an agreement is not required by the MAC.
That the company is embroiled in a federal lawsuit filed in October 2013 alleging nonpayment of minimum and overtime pay at the Baltimore airport gave some MAC members pause, as well. In the end, the committee recommended Aero Service Group’s proposal.
A proposal to replace the TGI Friday’s on Concourse C, space on Concourse E and in the main terminal mall provoked more debate. Staff members and the committee recommended a Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar, a Leeann Chin outlet and a Dunkin’ Donuts shop, but another proposal featuring local fare failed to pass muster.
That idea involved a sports bar concept pitched by the Minnesota Twins, Angel Food Bakery of Minneapolis and Smack Shack, a popular food truck turned restaurant.
Republic, which has brought a giant craft-beer selection to Uptown and Seven Corners in Minneapolis, is likely to have an airport outlet that would include live music by McNally Smith students.
MAC staff began assessing retail trends in early 2014, traveling to 20 airports worldwide for research. A request for proposals was issued in March.