Officials at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International hope to woo national chain eatery

Last updated: August 30. 2013 12:14AM - 7452 Views
ANDREW M. SEDER aseder@timesleader.com

The owners of the closed Midtown Sports Bar at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre International Airport have agreed to sell the building to the airport for $50,000.
The owners of the closed Midtown Sports Bar at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre International Airport have agreed to sell the building to the airport for $50,000.
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The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport board voted 6-0 to entered into an agreement through 2028 with Aviation Technologies to have the company serve as the airport’s fixed base operator.

The vote came after public comments chiding the lack of transparency some people felt was taking place in regard to the contract. Board members defended airport officials who handled negotiations.

Multiple board members voiced their confidence that Centini and his staff were able to handle the request for proposal process, negotiations and made a recommendation to the board with the best interest of the airport in mind.

“We have great confidence in our staff that they went through a thorough process,” said Lackawanna County Commissioner and airport board member Corey D. O’Brien, who made the motion to approve the contract.

DUPONT — A restaurant was the special menu item of the day Thursday, and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport board decided to place an order.

During the Bi-County Board of Commissioners meeting, members agreed to spend $50,000 to acquire the 8,196-square-foot building that once housed a Damon’s Restaurant and most recently a Midtown Sports Bar and Grill.

In addition to the building, the airport acquired at no cost $47,500 worth of restaurant equipment already installed in the building.

An independent appraisal of the facility showed the value of the building and its contents to be $262,500.

In addition to paying $50,000 to building owner Dublin LLC, the airport board agreed to forgive the past eight months’ of unpaid rent totalling $16,000. The closing is scheduled for Sept. 30.

The airport owns the land the building sits on at 28 Concorde Drive and has long collected rent from the building’s owner, even when the building remained vacant.

But after Damon’s closed in March 2007, the building sat unused until Midtown Sundries, a chain restaurant based in Charlotte, N.C., opened for business in 2010. That changed hands and in early 2011 Gina Kline and Ron Wellington of Laflin took over the lease and began operating Midtown Sports Bar and Grill.

After months of declining revenues, the eatery closed and the restaurant sat while rent wasn’t paid.

Finally, the airport was asked to step in and buy the building.

Board Chairman Tim McGinley said the goal is to find a tenant and lease it out but, he added, if the right opportunity presented itself, a sale would be considered.

The restaurant sits right next to the Holiday Inn Express and is in an area that could soon see additional traffic as part of a $41.9 million PennDOT project that includes the redesigning of entrance and exit ramps for the Interstate 81 Avoca interchange and an extension of Navy Way, which connects to Concorde Drive.

The work — including construction of a bridge over the Pennsylvania Turnpike that will create better access to and from the businesses in the Grimes Industrial Park — will open up more than 100 acres on the airport’s western side to potential development.

Airport Director Barry J. Centini said the airport will start looking for potential tenants immediately and he noted that he believes a national chain restaurant would be the best fit. If a restaurant doesn’t attract interest, he said turning the building into office space is a possibility.

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