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Washington State Ferries Food Vendor Makes Last-Ditch Effort To Keep Concession

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo

The Bremerton-based company that’s been serving hot dogs, coffee and other refreshments on Washington State Ferries for more than a decade is fighting to keep its concession. Earlier this year, Olympic Cascade Services lost the ferry food contract to a multi-national corporation based in Connecticut.Olympic Cascade Services, which lost the state bid to Centerplate, Inc.; hasn’t given up its fight to keep the concession despite a loss in court and a looming deadline to shut down.

Olympic Cascade Services President Nove Meyers says he was shocked when he found out Washington State Ferries had gone with another company.

“I couldn't believe it. Everything we’ve been told for all this time suggests that we’re the right people,” he said.

Meyers says sales have increased during his company's tenure and he’s provided steady employment with pay up to $17 an hour and benefits for 100 people. At a news conference in his attorney's offices in Seattle, Meyers emphasized that his company is local in contrast to the multi-national corporation slated to replace it on the ferries. 

Washington State Ferries (WSF) spokesman Ian Sterling says choosing Connecticut based Centerplate was a straight ahead business decision.  

“The state strongly feels that Centerplate will provide more money to the taxpayers of the state of Washington than the existing company does,” Sterling said.

But Olympic Cascade Services has challenged the way WSF looked at the potential earnings of the two companies and disputes that Centerplate would actually bring in more money for the state. The Bremerton company sued over the way the bidding process was carried out, but lost. Now, it's asking a judge to extend an injunction  keeping the new contract with Centerplate on hold while a state appeals court considers the case.

Olympic Cascade Services is also circulating a petition addressed to Governor Jay Inslee. Under the heading "Keep Ferry Food Local," the petition asks Inslee to "protect Washington small businesses and local jobs."

Attorney Warren J. Rheaume, with Davis Wright Tremaine, says Olympic Cascade Services is not asking that the new contract be automatically given to the Bremerton company. Rather,  he says, they are asking that the bidding process be reopened with changes in how sales revenue are calculated.

If a judge does not act by July 31, Olympic Cascade Services will likely have to shut down its food service on the ferries by the end of August.

Centerplate, Inc. isn't new to the food business in the Puget Sound region. The company holds the food concession for Safeco Field, for example. And, WSF spokesman Sterling says part of the agreement is that the company use local food and local flare as part of the ferry food concession.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.