Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

High Bid May Get Contract at Issue Is Food Service for Convention Center

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

High Bid May Get Contract at Issue Is Food Service for Convention Center

Article excerpt

A company with political clout is on track to win a multimillion-dollar contract for food service at the Cervantes Convention Center downtown.

And the preferred bidder's proposal would pay the city less than its three competitors.

The recommended bidder is a joint venture called America's Center Food Service Partners. Its general managing partner is Levy Restaurants, a company known nationally for serving in large venues, including Chicago's McCormick Place.

In the venture with Levy is Vincent Bommarito and his sons. Bommarito owns Tony's, a five-star restaurant in St. Louis. Bommarito was a member of the Convention and Visitors Commission during the administration of former Mayor Vincent C. Schoemehl Jr. He gave $1,000 to Bosley's mayoral campaign.

A Levy-Bommarito partnership also serves food and drink at Kiel Center.

At the convention center, the venture's minority partner is Darryl Jones, a Southwestern Bell executive who served as campaign treasurer to Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. Jones is on leave from Southwestern Bell.

The selection of a minority contractor was guided by a separate committee that includes Mary Nelson, who was appointed by Bosley as general counsel to the St. Louis Development Corporation.

"We're delighted we have been recommended," said Bommarito. He declined to comment further.

Jones said he believed his venture offered "the best product." He declined to comment on his ties to Bosley or whether he has had food service experience.

The lawyer for the outgoing company called the proposal a bad deal for taxpayers.

"I find it surprising from a financial point of view," said David Newburger, an attorney for Service America, the company that now holds the contract.

"This involves public money, and there is a question of public trust," he said.

Service America offered to:

Invest $500,000 in startup costs. …

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