The Idaho Department of Lands, working in accordance with the Land Board, is looking for a construction manager to oversee the building of a restaurant and brewery in downtown Boise, the Boise Guardian reported Sunday.
Dave Frazier, the man behind the Guardian, wondered in his article if the state is getting into the restaurant business. “Not satisfied with the controversial ownership of a public storage business, Idaho’s land board has apparently decided to enter the brew pub and restaurant business,” said Frazier in his blog post.
One public official says that’s just not the case.
Dan Goicoechea, chief of staff for Controller Donna Jones, one member of the Land Board, says the state is not getting into the restaurant business. “A potential tenant is looking at commercial properties in the downtown area for a brew pub,” Goicoechea told IdahoReporter.com Monday. “They may eventually wish to occupy a commercial site owned by the trust.”
Goicoechea said Jones would not support any effort by the board to run a restaurant establishment. “In general, Controller Jones does not support the trust building, owning, or operating a brew pub,” he concluded. “However, I don’t think that is what’s happening in this case.”
Frazier revealed a request for proposal (RFP) written by the Idaho Department of Lands that calls for submissions for construction of a restaurant in a building already owned by the state at the corner of 9th and Bannock streets in downtown Boise. According to the request, the building is about 9,000 square feet.
Whoever wins the contract from IDL will need to build a kitchen, bar, office, freezer, and a brewing area.
This is not the first time the Land Board has been in the middle of controversy about one of its purchasing decisions. late 2010, the board took fire over its acquisition of a Boise commercial storage facility that it still owns and operates.
A few weeks ago, Gov. Butch Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna each told IdahoReporter.com that they regretted buying the storage facility, but Jones, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden have stayed firm on the purchase.
Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, brought a bill in the 2011 legislative session that would have prevented the state from buying buildings or businesses, but it was shelved by House Resources and Conservation Committee chairman Bert Stevenson, a Republican from Rupert. Stevenson said that bill was not needed and that the board was only fulfilling its constitutional duty by putting money in investments with high rates of return.
Former state lawmaker Bob Forrey, a Republican who represented Nampa for two terms in the Idaho House and a vocal critic of recent panel transactions, believes the Land Board needs to stay out of commercial deals. “The state should absolutely not be involved in these type of ventures,” Forrey said.
Forrey doesn’t believe, as does Frazier, that the state will be running the pub, but says it’s not a good move for business anyway. “Either way it’s wrong,” he chided. “I don’t know how they expect business to bring their private dollars to the state knowing the state could jump into the competition at any time.”
The RFP is due Aug. 26, three days before an interim legislative committee is slated to hear more discussion on Vande Woude’s bill. Forrey thinks there’s no coincidence in the timing. “They’re kind of shoving this right in our faces,” he said.
Kathy Opp, the acting director for IDL, was not available for comment Monday afternoon, but told the Spokesman Review that the state will not be running a brewery, restaurant or pub. She said the transaction is just like other business deals within her department where a private entity will take advantage of state-owned space.