Tucson Airport Losing Popular Restaurant

Apr. 5--Hometown favorite El Charro is out and hometown brew is in at the airport.

Changes in food and drink offerings are coming this fall under a new concession contract at Tucson International Airport. The Tucson Airport Authority's directors approved a new contract with Philadelphia-based OTG Management.

Tucson-based El Charro has been partnered since 1996 with airport food-service company CA One Services of Buffalo, N.Y., for food and drink concessions at the airport, including two El Charro Cafe Mexican restaurant operations.

Airport authority spokeswoman Paula Winn said OTG intends to close El Charro's third-floor, sit-down restaurant in July and open its Jet Rock Bar & Grill this fall.

An El Charro fast-food operation and other current concourse eateries will close this fall to make way for new vendors.

Jet Rock, described as a Hard Rock Cafe-style, music-themed bar and restaurant, will feature 24 beers on tap, possibly including local microbrews from Gentle Ben's and Nimbus breweries. The bar and grill may also feature seasonal live music and rock 'n' roll memorabilia.

Anticipated new vendors on the West Concourse (Aerolitoral, America West, Continental, Delta, Northwest and United) include a Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors counter, sharing space with a Cibo Express Gourmet Market. The market will feature 500 carry-out foods including bagels, muffins, yogurt, cookies, salad and cheese.

Also planned for that concourse are a Boar's Head Deli, Carmella's Kitchen (a pizzeria), and Sky Asian Bistro -- featuring a sushi bar and full-service, sit-down dining.

Planned for the East Concourse (American, Frontier, Southwest airlines) are a Cibo Market; Arizona Sports Grill; Boar's Head Deli; Cheeburger Cheeburger; and Taco Bron, a local company that will sublease space.

Food courts are planned for both concourses as part of a $31 million renovation project expected to be completed by mid-2007, according to Winn. OTG is required to make a minimum capital investment of $2.75 million, she said.

The company operates concessions at Philadelphia International Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports.

El Charro executive Ray Flores said his company didn't bid on the new contract because the airport's request for proposal wasn't written for the kind of operation he says he had in mind. Flores said he planned to partner with Arizona-based Bashas' supermarkets to provide food kiosks and an improved El Charro restaurant.