Olympic Cascade Services of Bremerton is suing to keep its vendor contract for ferry food service. The state plans to award the job instead to a national company that operates the Seattle Mariners’ food service.
The Bremerton business that serves food on the Washington State Ferries is urging supporters to contact Gov. Jay Inslee and ask that he cancel plans to hire a multinational food-service company.
For a decade, Olympic Cascade Services of Bremerton has prepared and served sandwiches, chowder, fruits, snacks, coffee, beer and wine to 2 million customers per year.
Its 10-year contract has ended. Following proposals from eight businesses, a state panel chose Centerplate, a Connecticut-based company that operates the food and beverage concessions for the Seattle Mariners, among stadiums, resorts and transportation hubs nationwide.
“I was devastated. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” said Olympic Cascade President Nove Meyers, who has sued to seek a rebid. His company continues to staff the ferries on a month-to-month basis.
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Meyers said the business employs about 100 people, who can earn $17 per hour plus medical and 401(k) retirement contributions within one year.
A spokesperson for Centerplate wasn’t immediately available.
Ferries spokesman Ian Sterling said the state is required every 10 years to open the galley contract for competition. He said passengers will find a broader selection with Centerplate.
“This is just a Hail Mary by the existing company to hold on to whatever they can,” Sterling said. “We hear all the time from people on the ferries, we would like to have better food on the vessels than we have now.”
Centerplate will feature local brands, including Hempler’s beef and ham, Uli’s Sausage, Beecher’s cheese and Stimson Estate Cellars wine, a state announcement said in April.
Olympic Cascade highlighted its own local fare at a news conference Monday, including Ivar’s clam chowder, Franz sandwich bread, Aplets and Cotlets, and Alki Bakery pastries, and said it plans more choices and refrigerated vending machines.
The online petition drive at ferryfood.com is meant to lend political support to the legal battle this summer.
The company alleges a selection panel acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner by ignoring a collusion scandal involving Centerplate in a Columbus, Ohio, convention-center contract, and anomalies in how Centerplate proposed to calculate payments to the state.
By contrast, Olympic Cascade has demonstrated that it pays $1.4 million a year to the ferries, based on percentage of sales, Meyers said.
Judge Anne Hirsch of Thurston County Superior Court declined the Bremerton firm’s request for an injunction that would have blocked the contract with Centerplate.
But she did allow 30 days to file a notice to the state Court of Appeals, which its lawyers did, to seek a rebid.
Even at this late stage, contracting rules allow the ferry system to cancel the deal, said Meyers’ attorney, Warren Rheaume of Davis Wright Tremaine.
Stirling, the ferry spokesman, blamed Olympic Cascade for failing to hire enough workers to keep the ferry Walla Walla’s galley service open this summer on the Bremerton-Seattle route. Meyers said instability makes it harder to hire people, who must obtain a food-service permit and security clearance.
Company managers said most employees are female and half are over 40, limiting their job options.
So far, 3,100 people have signed the online petition to the governor, said Meyers.
Five state legislators sent a letter “to express our disappointment” and urge Inslee to re-examine the contract award.