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San Jose preparing for food & retail overhaul; some small businesses frustrated

Officials at Mineta San Jose International (SJC) are preparing to take bids next month to replace all of its existing 28 storefronts with up to 40 new stores and restaurants.

Airport officials do not want the role of landlord, according to the San Jose Mercury News. So the city will accept bids from master concessionaires or developers for the program, expected to consist of roughly 18 restaurant spaces and 23 retail spots when completed in 2010.
That leaves no option for allowing business owners to bid on just one space. The city council voted to allow companies to bid for one of four packages of at least nine stores or restaurants each or for the entire airport concession. Contractors would sublease to small businesses.

Airport officials have long said they expect to include a local flavor to the new concessions program. But the paper reports that the process has left some small business owners frustrated.

City officials “have been touting that it’s going to have this local flavor, but when we ask, ‘what are you going to do to ensure some local participation?’ they haven’t committed to doing anything,” Carolyn Allen-Samavarchian, owner of Paolo’s Restaurant, told the Mercury News. “We just want a level playing field.”

City officials told the paper they are requiring bidders to provide a mix of tenants, including local businesses. HMSHost Corp., which operates most of the dozen-plus restaurants at the airport currently, is expected to bid, the paper reported.

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