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Hobie Paddles Into Traffic

An owner of the local surf brand Hobie is vying for rights to a new restaurant concession, up for grabs at John Wayne Airport.

Like a surfer dropping in on an occupied wave, Hobie’s proposal appears to be overshadowed by a competing one that includes a cross-county rival, Huntington Beach’s Corky Carroll’s Surf Bar.

Carroll is represented by New York’s Delaware North Companies, a food service concessionaire in airports worldwide making its first bid for Orange County business.

The Hobie Hut, a surf-themed café, is part of a suite of restaurants proposed by Maryland’s HMS Host, another food-service company that has held the John Wayne  food and beverage concession lease for 20 years.

The commission that oversees the airport, expanding with a new terminal under construction, is set to vote Wednesday, Dec. 15, on its concession recommendation at a meeting in Costa Mesa. A staff report favors Delaware’s proposal “because of the uniqueness of both the product and design.”

Mark Christy, co-owner of Hobie Surf Shops in Laguna and Dana Point, criticized the staff recommendation. He maintains Host’s proposal outbids Delaware’s, projecting $15 million more in revenue and pledging a combined $4.5 million more in capital improvements and rent.

Christy says Host’s proposal favors local businesses, with six Orange County-based brands, including Javier’s, Ruby’s Diner, Jerry’s Dogs, Anaheim Ducks Slapshot Bar & Grill, and Laguna Culinary Institute. By comparison, Delaware’s ticket includes only Corky Carroll Surf Bar, a John Wayne Tribute Bar, and Wahoo’s. Even so, the origin of the vendors was not a consideration in seeking bids, said airport spokeswoman Jenny Wedge.

An unidentified panel made up of four senior airport managers and an outside expert came to a recommendation based on five criteria: experience and qualifications, projected airport revenue, financial viability and background, store concepts, and planned capital improvements. It gave Delaware’s proposal 2180 points while HMS Host received 2120, Wedge said.

The commission recommendation requires approval by the county Board of Supervisors, and is expected to vote on the matter early next year.

Carroll, reached in Mexico, said his airport surf bar “will be a tribute to local Orange County surf culture, with a little retro nod to the 1950s and ‘60s when it all began here. It will feature a longboard surfboard bar, encased in a huge wave over the top.”

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