BLOOMINGTON — North Carolina-based Tailwind said Friday it has purchased The Hangar restaurant at the Central Illinois Regional Airport.
The deal could make Tailwind the only retail concession operator at CIRA, but a liquor license issue is still pending.
Jess Backhaus, director of operations for Tailwind, said The Hangar owners approached his company about three weeks ago.
“We’ve spent the last week hammering out a finished agreement,” said Backhaus, who declined to release a sale price. Tim Davis and Tom Hubbard, owners of The Hangar, were not available for comment Friday.
The Hanger will continue to operate until the sale is final; Tailwind expects to take over the restaurant under the Tailwind name “with minimal service interruption” in June.
Prior to that, the Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority will vote on the transfer of the lease at its May 17 meeting. Airport spokeswoman Fran Strebing said the vote will be contingent on Tailwind getting a liquor license from the city.
The issue of a liquor license has dogged Tailwind’s current restaurant, located past security, for months. Twice the city’s liquor commission recommended a license, but it was voted down each time by the Bloomington City Council. Generally, city aldermen said they did not believe there was a need for two separate licenses at the airport.
Tailwind has now filed a third application with the city for a license that incorporates The Hangar. The purchase likely will end the argument over the two licenses, said Backhaus.
“That is our hope anyway,” he added. “The most important thing about this agreement is this is not a hostile takeover.”
Tailwind had appealed the City Council’s second denial to the state liquor commission, but both sides agreed to delay that until the third application is voted on, Bloomington city attorney Todd Greenburg said.
That third application is expected to go before the city’s liquor commission May 10. If the commission recommends the license, the earliest it could go to the City Council would be May 23.
“Our focus is on our customers. We want to make sure we are going to be able to provide what they are looking for,” Strebing said. “That’s (liquor) something we know they are continuing to ask for. We’d like it to be on both sides (of security).”
Backhaus said the application asks the airport to add The Hangar space into Tailwind’s current lease, which expires in 2020. The Hangar’s lease expires in 2013.
Strebing said the deal came about after The Hangar initially approached airport officials about purchasing the business.
“We were not interested in being in the restaurant business,” she said. “We’re pleased they were able to work things out very amicably.”
In addition to its restaurant, Tailwind also operates a gift shop at CIRA. This month it also was the sole applicant to operate a coffee shop at the airport; the previous coffee shop, Bevande, closed abruptly last weekend.
Karen Hansen contributed to this report.