Town of Harrietstown Supervisor Bob Bevilacqua confirmed Wednesday that the town has canceled its contract with the operator of Lisa's Airport Cafe, but he declined to go into specifics as to why.
"We've always had a clause in the contract where we can cancel it for any reason with 45 days' notice," Bevilacqua said. "Things weren't working out real well, so we decided we'd cancel the contract."
Lisa Lawrence paid the town roughly $400 a month to rent the restaurant space in the Adirondack Regional Airport terminal. She had run the cafe since the fall of 2009.
Bevilacqua said a notice that the contract was being canceled was sent to Lawrence in mid March. The cafe has since closed, and Lawrence has been clearing her out her belongings, the supervisor said.
Bevilacqua said the town plans to renovate the cafe space and then accept new bids to run it.
"We've got to put new tiles on the floor, spruce it up a bit and put some countertops in, and then we're going to be going out for (requests for proposals) to find a new operator for the restaurant," he said. "Lisa is more than welcome to submit her proposal when we go out for RFPs again."
A proposal to spend $5,000 to make repairs and renovations to the cafe is on the agenda of tonight's town board meeting, along with a draft RFP for a new restaurant operator.
Bevilacqua said the town will also be tweaking the contract for the new tenant at the cafe. Among other things, it will require the town to be given copies of any state Department of Health inspections of the facility.
Over the past year, the cafe had been cited for more health violations than most other Saranac Lake area food services. The Health Department found 10 critical violations and 12 non-critical violations during an inspection in August of last year, according to information posted on the department's website. Another inspection in November turned up one critical violation and seven non-critical violations. The critical violations included not using thermometers to evaluate food temperatures during cooking and reheating, or not having enough refrigerated storage equipment. The non-critical violations included things like food contact surfaces not being washed, rinsed and sanitized after each use.
Bevilacqua said the violations didn't play a role in the town board's decision to terminate its contract with Lawrence "because I don't think we've been given copies of the inspections. That's one of the things we're going to change with the new contract."
A message left for Lawrence at the cafe wasn't immediately returned Wednesday. She didn't have a listed telephone number.
On Tuesday, the Enterprise published a letter to the editor from Bill Martin of Saranac Lake, thanking the cafe owners for their service and saying he was surprised Lawrence was being "given the boot." Martin said the decision appears to be driven by "small-town" politics, and he speculated that "someone's relative wants a shot at the business."
Bevilacqua said there was nothing nefarious about the decision to cancel the contract, and he didn't know who the "relative" is that Martin is referring to.
"I have no idea where that was coming from," he said. "I know none of my relatives want to run a restaurant. I have no idea who they're referring to there."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.