Phoenix Council Approves Sky Harbor Concessionaire Contracts With Strings

Published: Wednesday, January 20, 2021 - 6:18pm
Updated: Wednesday, January 20, 2021 - 6:19pm

After hours of discussion, the Phoenix City Council agreed to extend leases for concessionaires at Sky Harbor Airport. But the deal comes with strings attached.

For months, council members have heard from women alleging workplace discrimination at airport restaurants and bars. During public comment at council meetings they complained about sexist remarks, personal insults and being judged as too old to be in the business. 

On Monday, Councilmembers Betty Guardado, Laura Pastor and Carlos Garcia sent letters to Sky Harbor concessionaires asking them to agree to five anti-discrimination provisions as part of a three-year contract extension. 

Vice Mayor Thelda Williams said too many small businesses are in danger of closing: “I just cannot knowingly and willingly fail to act on this. I just feel very strongly that if we don’t do this we will damage not only the airport, the city, but the state.”

By a 7-2 vote, the council approved the provisions and contract extensions, which several business owners and operators said would help them refinance loans. 

Phoenix will also continue offering rent relief to concessionaires through 2021. The Aviation Department estimated it lost about $10 million in rent in 2021 and estimated it lost $20 million between April and December 2020.

In March 2020, then-Aviation Director Jim Bennett said Sky Harbor predicted it would return to 2019 passenger levels around 2023. During Wednesday’s council meeting, several business owners said the industry forecast calls for recovery in 2024.