FAA & airport concessions: Mayor to rule on alcohol license of ally’s firm stripped of DBE status

By David Pendered

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has to decide the fate of an alcohol license at the airport that’s been requested by a business affiliated with a key ally – a business that has just lost a battle with the FAA over the firm’s contract to run restaurants at the airport.

The city’s License Review Board on Tuesday approved and sent to the mayor an alcohol license requested by Atlanta Restaurant Partners. The company is a spinoff of a firm founded in 1994 by Daniel Halpern, who co-chaired Reed’s mayoral campaign; Brook Jackson Edmond, daughter of the late Mayor Maynard Jackson; and the late mayor.

The FAA on Thursday took steps that could result in Atlanta Restaurant Partners losing all of its airport locations. The FAA directed the state Department of Transportation to strip the company of its certification as an “Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise” – a certification that helped the company win the airport contract.

The FAA has previously determined that ARP was one of four companies that did not deserve the ACDBE certification that counted as 15 percent of their score in the heated competition for airport concessions contracts worth a total of more than $3 billion.

According to the FAA:

“The FAA has completed its certification review and determined that four firms awarded contracts at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport do not meet federal requirements for Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) certifications.

“Today [Thursday], the FAA directed the Georgia Dept. of Transportation (GDOT) to begin the process to remove the ACDBE certification for these four firms.  GDOT has 60 days to complete the process for removing the ACDBE certification. The FAA looks forward to working with the airport to ensure its Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) commitments are met.”

GDOT is the state’s primary overseer of DBE certifications. In conducting the airport concessions contracts, Atlanta decided to use GDOT’s certification of companies that meet federal requirements as disadvantaged business enterprises.

The four companies that won airport contracts did not meet the criteria in place at the time GDOT certified them as ACDBEs, according to the FAA. The GDOT later reviewed the companies, at the direction of the FAA, and determined that each of them is in compliance – but with criteria that were enacted months after the mayor signed the concessions contracts in March.

In the case of ARP, the FAA determined one ARP owner was too wealthy to qualify at the time of the contracts as an ACDBE. Another ARP owner has been disqualified previously as an ACDBE because the heritage of Upper Cayuga/Six Nation Canadian Tribe, which was claimed by the applicant, is not recognized as an ACDBE, according to a letter the FAA sent in April.

ARP won contracts for locations in the Terminal and Concourse D. It was approved to operate TGI Fridays, Chicken N Beer, Atlanta Braves All Star Grill, Goldberg’s Bagel Co. and Deli. Ludacris, the performing artist, owns Chicken N Beer.

The city’s License Review Board acted Tuesday on a request ARP filed for a TGI Fridays restaurant at the airport.

The request was filed as a change of ownership because ARP has just been awarded the space as a result of the latest round of airport concessions, Halpern’s spokesman, Jeff Dickerson, said Wednesday evening.

Here’s the complete statement that appears on the agenda of the Aug. 7 meeting:

  • “Application of Atlanta Restaurant Partners, LLC d/b/a T. G. I. Friday’s, Brooke Jackson Edmond, agent. License requested to operate a restaurant liquor beer and wine consumed on premises, at 1 Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport concourse T-F8. (change of ownership).”

ARP does not list its executives on its paperwork filed with the Georgia Secretary of State. ARP does list its agent, and Halpern has served in that capacity since the company was formed in 2003.

Edmond’s name does not appear on the paperwork on file with the Secretary of State.

The company is often described as an “outgrowth” of Jackmont Hospitality, the company Maynard Jackson formed in 1994 with Edmond and Halpern, after Jackson’s final term as mayor. Jackmont has blossomed, and its webpage says Jackmont grosses about $24 million a year and employs about 180 persons.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, Halpern has contributed $97,885 to political committees since 2002. The FEC paperwork identified Halpern with companies named Atlanta Restaurant Partners, Jackmont Hospitality and Jackmont Realty.

 

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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3 comments
Swag jack
Swag jack

This article is full of inaccuracies and statements meant to create damaging intrigue. Why can't solid businesses (operating with integrity and doing everything by the book) use the system to overcome disadvantages that we all know still exist? There are MANY minority owned businesses that use DBE status in the way it was meant to be used - they are not all crooked. This program has helped many small businesses grow and provide jobs and community support. The FAA directive is itself an abuse of process. This is truly the worst kind of BS and I am disappointed in SaportaReport report for not doing their homework, the headline is a lie. Talk about hurting job creators...

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

Which inaccuracies and statements do you mean? Please be specific.

And exactly how is the FAA directive an abuse of process?

 

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

GDOT is supposed to provide political cover for the Mayor in this process, since the City relies on GDOT to certify the "disadvantaged" contractors. The FAA has pierced this arrangement and put pressure on both GDOT and the Mayor.

 

This "disadvantaged" contractor scam has been going on at the airport since Maynard Jackson was Mayor, and is a real abuse of process. Maybe it will be brought into the open and cleaned up now. By the way, I read elsewhere that Valerie Jackson is also involved.