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Airport will lose daily flight mid-December

Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport will be losing one of its daily flights in mid-December, but the terminal will retain its cafe.

The news reflects economic realities for the local airport: Fewer passengers flying out of Lawton means the airport will lose a flight to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, while bankruptcy plans by a local restaurateur has closed one business in Lawton and will affect the airport cafe. But the owner wants to transfer his lease for the airport cafe to two women who already were operating the facility at the airport.

What was called the Percolator R&R Cafe opened on the site of the former Ann's Cafe in December 2016, under a collaborative effort that provided a cafe to serve coffee, other drinks and food, with an adjacent Military Welcome Center (operating under the auspices of the Armed Services YMCA) to provide items to military personnel and families using the airport. At the opening, supporters said the cafe blended the area's military and aviation history into a unique setting.

Percolator owner Carlos Irizarry has asked that his lease with the airport authority be assigned to the two women who have been managing his cafe, to operate under the name Busy Bean LLC. Airport Director Barbara McNally said Irizarry gave the airport 30 days notice that he planned to terminate his lease, but he asked that it be assigned to Busy Bean so the women could continue operations.

McNally said one hang-up in the transfer centers on cafe equipment, which is not owned by the airport. A last-minute hitch that required replacement of a stove and a sandwich preparation table last year was resolved when Lockheed Martin donated the money for the equipment, according t officials with the Armed Services YMCA. Ownership of that equipment is important because it could become part of the bankruptcy proceedings.

Leasing committee members said the decision on ownership of that equipment rests among Busy Bean, Irizarry and the Armed Services YMCA, meaning those entities need to resolve who owns the equipment and whether it would stay with the cafe when it transferred ownership or become subject to bankruptcy proceedings.

The leasing committee recommended the full airport authority accept Irizarry's request to reassign the lease and to waive the first three months of rent paid by the new owners as they "get their feet on the ground."

"The ladies want to keep the cafe running," McNally said. "We want to continue to have that for customers."

The new Fly and Dine Cafe will feature a revised menu, she said of plans to keep a business that is popular with passengers and with those who work at the airport.

Authority members also decided to give the women a full-year lease, with a 30-day "out" provision for either the owners or the airport authority, to help with plans to secure the licenses necessary to operate. The original proposal had been for a month-to-month lease, but authority members said it could be difficult to obtain a city operating permit and almost impossible to obtain a liquor license under a month-to-month plan.

The Lawton Constitution

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