CALDWELL, Idaho — For three decades, the Caldwell Airport Cafe has been a destination for local pilots and visitors from all over to grab breakfast or lunch. But, it may have to close its doors permanently, as the City of Caldwell is looking at the possibility of demolishing the building to put two more hangars in at the Caldwell Airport.
In a recent internal audit, the cafe lease was found to be out of compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations and according to a press release, "the City of Caldwell is obligated to abide by FAA rules and regulations. Currently, any leased building or business on Airport property must meet the obligations under grant assurances with the FAA to charge appropriate market-rate rent for leases."
The owner and customers are not ready to see it go so they started a petition to save the cafe. It's now gathered more than 1,000 signatures.
“Our airport management came to me and told me that they want to tear our building down” Owner and Operator Rebecca Aldrich said. “They don’t understand how big our business really is.
Aldrich said she was told by the city and airport management that she could get a food truck and park it on-site, but she says the atmosphere of the Airport Cafe is what makes it special.
While no official action has been taken from the city, the issue has been presented to the city council. Airport Director Rob Oates said in his statement that given its age and ongoing expense of maintaining the building, the city is considering possible redevelopment options.
"A new business-orientated hangar makes perfect sense to fit into our game plan for growing our airport and it's just one of those changes that come about over time. So there's nothing particularly unusual about it, it's just that we have a building that has reached the end of its useful life and were ready to look at opportunities for that space,” Oates said.
“To me, it's thousands upon thousands that they are talking about rather than keeping this and maybe fixing it up because they haven’t done anything to this building in the 10 years I have operated out of this building,” Aldrich said. “The city, I don’t think they understand how many customers we truly have and how much clientele we have”
That clientele includes 94-year old James. B Hayden Junior. The cafe staff calls him Jim, and he comes in almost every day, sometimes twice a day to enjoy a meal.
He says his favorite thing about the cafe is two eggs and two sausages and toast.
“It is an emotional tie and a lot of the folks who are patrons of the restaurant right now have enjoyed it for years, some for decades. It takes effort naturally to bring someone's personality, to bring that mode and mood, but I think that’s certainly doable and that’s what I would be hoping for as we look toward change for the future, ” Oates said.
The City Council will make the final vote but the process can take up to one to two years. Airport management says they wanted to give the cafe owners enough time to figure out a plan for their future and to submit a proposal of their own.