Aberdeen, S.D. Airport Eatery Changes Hands

Nearly two months after Jim Sandvig informed the Aberdeen airport board that he wanted to pull out of the SkyBar Cafe in the new terminal, a new operator has been found.

Tony Martinez, an Aberdeen city council candidate, will be awarded the contract to operate the eatery rent-free, said Dave Osborn, city transportation director, on Thursday.

The rent under the old contract had been $400 per month.

Osborn said the city received interest from four parties, two of which were local, one was from Rapid City and one from Wyoming.

Only the local parties appeared for interviews, and Martinez was selected by the board.

Osborn said Martinez was chosen for his previous experience serving food at Northern State University and for food and bar work he has done in the last two years.

To speed up the transition, Martinez will be in the SkyBar this week getting a feel for the business. The eatery will not be closed during the transition.

City Attorney Mark Anderson said Martinez will take over Sandvig's contract starting Tuesday, as Sandvig's 60-day notice period expires. Martinez and the city will likely ink a new contract next week, Osborn said.

Even though Martinez is running for city council, Anderson said there should not be any conflict of interest since the contract was open for bids and Martinez is not a city employee, but rather would be an independent contractor at the airport.

New name?: There was some question Thursday as to whether Martinez would rename the eatery, and Osborn said that is an option.

"The SkyBar Cafe has a new operator, whether the name stays is yet to be determined," Osborn said.

As far as the details of Martinez's contract, not much has been determined, airport officials said.

The city will not charge him rent and will provide a food and beverage inventory valued at about $4,000 to $5,000 for him to get started.

However, Osborn said that inventory must be replaced if Martinez wants out of his contract.

The money for the inventory will come from the sale to Sandvig of a cappuccino machine, as specified in his contract.

With no rent, the restaurant may become more financially feasible, city officials said.

Airport board members said in March that Sandvig was pulling out because the eatery wasn't working financially.

Osborn said that if Martinez is successful, rent could be charged later on.