The airport’s restaurant can be a huge success, if the county commissioners will allow it


Last Updated on July 11, 2016 – 2:36 PM CDT

Above: Willis Construction will begin framing the restaurant at the Moore County Airport on Tuesday.

We all like to eat. Many of us like to have a drink with our dinner, and we like doing it at a venue that puts more thought into its ambiance other than setting out tables and chairs. We want to go to restaurants where the atmosphere enhances the menu, a place where we like to linger after the wait staff has removed our plates.

Moore County has an opportunity to provide us with such an experience with the restaurant going in at the airport. During the Commissioners’ Court meeting Monday, the commissioners discussed the language of the lease agreement, and the topic of whether or not to allow beer and wine came up. Commissioner Milton Pax opposes it, and Commissioner Lynn Cartrite said if beer and alcohol are allowed, why not open it up to liquor. Indeed, why not?

During the last couple of months, I’ve asked about 30 people what they think about the airport’s restaurant. Almost all of them asked, “Will it have outdoor seating?” and “Will they serve alcohol?” I asked people who are in their early 20s to people over 60. All of them like the uniqueness of a restaurant at the airport, and I gathered the restaurant would draw a different crowd for lunch and another for dinner. This certainly wasn’t a scientific study, but it gave me an idea of how popular the restaurant would be and what people want it to have.

We like choices, and we want those choices to be different. It does no good for a new restaurant to be no different than an existing one. Restaurants, and any business, succeed because they can offer a service or product that isn’t available anywhere else. In a restaurant’s case, all of them serve food, but it’s how and where they serve it that make a difference. It’s why people ask if the restaurant at the airport will have outdoor seating. If it’s at the airport, then they want to sit outside and watch the planes, or they just want to enjoy their lunch or dinner outside looking at the expanse of sky that is one of the Panhandle’s draws.

I ask Pax and anyone else opposed to serving beer, wine or liquor at the restaurant to look past their personal opinions about those beverages and think about marketing. If you’re going to establish a restaurant and base its menu, food or otherwise, solely on what you want, then you might as well invite people to your house for dinner. This restaurant has the potential to be one with a long line of people waiting for a table. It would be a boon for an already busy airport by offering people flying in the convenience of walking a few feet for a meal. And it would be a tremendous asset to the county’s dining and entertainment offerings.

The commissioners mentioned the possibility of the restaurant competing with other businesses. Competition is one of the best things that can happen for consumers. It forces businesses to stay on top of their game and not lapse into complacency and mediocrity. It creates a vibrant business community. I’ve spoken with pilots who say they fly into the Moore County Airport because the fuel is among the most inexpensive in the country. Valero’s pilots say it has a “beautiful approach.” Why not add a restaurant that is the talk, not only of the county, but among pilots and their passengers? They already love the airport for its fuel. It’s a no-brainer to increase the airport’s appeal with an incredible restaurant.

Certainly, the county must carefully vet all of the people who bid for the lease. If someone wants to put in a sandwich shop, it better be a sandwich shop Texas Monthly will write about. The tenant must be one that not only has plans for an incredible menu but has the creativity to match the decor with that menu. The taxpayers paid for a chunk of money for this restaurant; give us something for our investment.

Moore County Attorney Scott Higginbotham prepared a 15-page lease agreement for the commissioners to consider. They can add or remove language from it, and the county can construct provisions that would address serving and consuming alcohol on other county property. The commissioners made an allowance for the Moore County Health Foundation to serve alcohol at its gala in August, but they need to think carefully about the restrictions they place on a tenant. Do not tie their hands by preventing them from serving at least beer and wine and reducing their chances of building a unique business. We have a great restaurant on the south side of town that has transformed itself. KBob’s and the Frackin’ Tavern have great atmosphere and food. If you haven’t been out there since the overhaul of their menu and management, you should. It has become a favorite gathering place for many people.

We have restaurants anchoring the south side of Dumas. Let’s nail down the north side, too.