MARTINSBURG - The Altoona-Blair County Airport Authority is advertising its interest for a new restaurant operator, while interest has surfaced in rewriting its lease with the current one.
"If no one else is interested, maybe we've got to work with the restaurant that's here," airport Manager Charles Pillar said.
"They do a good job," airport member Herbert Bolger said. "Their food is good."
What isn't good is business.
The economy, taxes and the opening of a nearby restaurant have hurt business at the airport's second-floor eatery, Kitty Hawk owner Mary Jo Donaldson said.
The loss of parking spaces closest to the airport terminal, when construction on a corporate hangar started in early October, has hurt too, she said.
At the authority's recent meeting, Pillar said Donaldson made a lease payment of $1,250 but still owes about $11,000. She is current with the restaurant's portion of the utility bills, he said.
The advertisements were placed to see if there is any interest in operating a home- or franchise-style restaurant at the airport, authority Chairman Don Ruggery said.
"We have to look at this," Ruggery said. "The question is how long can we let this go on. As far as I'm concerned, we're nearing a time to make a decision."
If the authority receives no response to its advertisements, one option may be for the authority to work on new lease arrangements with Donaldson.
"If Kitty Hawk pulled out, we might have nothing up there, and I don't want that," authority member Gary Orner said. "They're paying their [share] of the utilities, so that's something."
Donaldson said she also paid between $10,000 and $12,000 during the last year for equipment repairs to a walk-in cooler and freezer acquired from the restaurant's previous operator.
The Kitty Hawk has been in business since September 1996, when it opened as part of a $3.6 million terminal expansion project.
The authority initially hired a manager for the restaurant and hopes of making money to help support the airport.
By August 1997, however, with little growth to match the size of the terminal, the authority had unpaid bills piling up and a decision was made to close Kitty Hawk. However, that decision was set aside when former operator Gene and Vera Laratonda offered to operate the restaurant. Donaldson acquired the business from the Laratondas.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.