It came right down to the wire, but the Empire Room has a caterer in time for the start of the New York State Fair where it is located.
An entity called Bedford Falls LLC has signed a contract with the state Department of Agriculture & Markets to operate the restaurant from 9 a.m. to midnight through the 12-day run of the fair, which begins Thursday.
The bar will serve from 10 a.m. to 10 p. m. daily, except for Sundays when it will open at noon. The restaurant will offer continental breakfast and full lunch and dinner service.
As recently as last week, Ag & Markets officials were saying they had no operator for the food and beverage service at the oft-troubled venue. Monday's announcement solved that problem.
The Bedford Falls company is owned by Jay and Kathy Bernhardt, according to a news release. They own the Hotel Clarence in Seneca Falls and the Red Mill Inn in Baldwinsville. They are partnering with Ben Eberhardt, who manages operations at the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles and the Colgate Inn in Hamilton. The Eberhardt family has operated food service at the Empire Room in the past, according to the release.
The state had issued a request for proposal twice this year to staff the year-round fairgrounds restaurant, but was unable to secure a caterer.
Records show that contracting problems at the restaurant, situated in the Art & Home Building, in the past few years led to two state inspector general investigations, the firing of a top-level state official, a guilty plea for a former fair director, and a lawsuit from the most recent caterer. The state spent $850,000 renovating the facility last year.
The fairgrounds are located adjacent to Route 690 just west of Syracuse. It is accessible from the Thruway (I-90). The street address is 581 State Fair Boulevard, Syracuse.