Change on horizon for airport’s restaurant |

Change on horizon for airport’s restaurant

The restaurant at the Lake Tahoe Airport has struggled in the past decade with several different owners and incarnations, but Mike Weber thinks he can change that.

Weber has had success as former president and managing partner for Camp Richardson Resort and The Beacon Bar & Grill and The Fresh Ketch Restaurant.

“It’s about seeing the invisible and imagining the unimaginable,” Weber said.

His partner Pandee Pearson is an award-winning chef who served as consulting food and beverage director for the Beacon and Fresh Ketch.

Weber said his business plan, which was approved by the airport commission and will go before the City Council Aug. 7, differs from that of his predecessors, who relied on commercial air service. Weber said his plan will be geared toward locals with affordable prices and a “unique experience.”

“The difference is our business model is designed not with the idea that we need commercial air service to be successful; and I think other models did have that foundation,” Weber said.

City Manager David Childs and Airport Commissioner Carl Ribaudo, however, are working on a strategic marketing plan for the airport, which includes attracting a commercial air carrier. The plan will be presented at the next airport commission meeting Tuesday, July 24.

Although Weber plans on launching a healthy advertisement campaign, he said word of mouth by locals will be the best way to get word out.

“In any small community, word of mouth is the best advertising,” he said.

The proposed restaurant would be California Fresh and New Orleans Style Bistro and eatery with cocktails and regional food and wine from Apple Hill and El Dorado County.

Weber said involving these regions is a good step toward making the airport a priority for nearby communities.

If approved by The City Council on Aug. 7, Weber estimates a period of 60 days for remodeling before the restaurant could be ready for a soft opening.

He hopes to sign a five- year lease on the property.

The last airport restaurant, the Tailspin Restaurant and Lounge, was vacated in July by former proprietor, Ed Pennypacker. He reportedly owed $25,000 in unpaid rent and damages. The Tribune could not confirm or deny if he had paid his debt at press time, but sources said it was unlikely.

Throughout the 1990s, the airport went for periods of months and even years without a restaurant. The longest closure came in 1991 when American Airlines pulled out. And as other airlines came and went, the longest any airport restaurant lasted was less than three years.

Brand, however, is confident the proposed airport restaurant would fly under the guidance of Weber.

“When you have an established background as a restaurant proprietor, people will automatically give you a chance,” she said.

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