Politics & Government

Bremerton ferry food vendor won’t take contract fight to state Supreme Court

A Washington state ferry passes in front of Mount Rainier in 2014. A court fight is ending, clearing the way for a new vendor to serve food on state ferries.
A Washington state ferry passes in front of Mount Rainier in 2014. A court fight is ending, clearing the way for a new vendor to serve food on state ferries. AP file, 2014

The family-owned Bremerton company that sells food aboard Washington ferries will not pursue further legal action aimed at preventing a Connecticut-based catering group from replacing it.

The multinational corporation Centerplate outbid Olympic Cascade Services earlier this year for a new vendor contract with the state. Olympic Cascade sued to stop the switch, arguing that the bidding process was unfair.

The local company paid the state just under $1 million to sell on the ferry system last year, according to the state Department of Transportation.

On Wednesday, Olympic Cascade chose not to appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court after a panel of judges on Washington’s Court of Appeals declined Monday to extend an earlier court-ordered injunction barring Washington State Ferries from closing a deal with Centerplate.

The injunction was to expire Wednesday, allowing the state to sign with Centerplate.

Olympic Cascade President Nove Meyers has asked Gov. Jay Inslee to step in and review the bidding process.

Warren Rheaume, an attorney for the company, echoed that call Wednesday, saying Olympic Cascade is “calling upon the governor to basically put the contract on hold so he can take a look at the bidding process.”

Rheaume works for the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine.

Olympic Cascade contends key parts of Centerplate’s bid were deceptive and misled the ferries about how much it would pay to serve food on the state’s ferries.

Washington State Ferries says the bid was not misleading, and spokesman Ian Sterling has said officials picked Centerplate because it offered to pay more for the contract and provide higher quality food.

Olympic Cascade wants “us to ignore the best proposal we got and pick them based on a past relationship,” Sterling said.

Rheaume said Olympic Cascade hopes the governor will implement a second bidding process, even if that doesn’t guarantee it will win the contract.

Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith has said the governor does not plan to weigh in on the issue.

Olympic Cascade has been serving food for the ferry system since 2005. The state’s ferry vendor contract expires every 10 years to allow competition for the contract.

Centerplate also serves food at the Tacoma Dome and at Safeco Field in Seattle.

Walker Orenstein: 360-786-1826, @walkerorenstein

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