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Who Cooks for You?

City's caterers knocking on the Depot door

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Boise area caterers are crossing their fingers in the hopes that the Boise City Council will rejigger the city's policy on catering at the city-owned Boise Depot. The policy, adopted as part of the city's budget negotiations last fall, set up a "preferred vendor list" for the city landmark that blocked anyone not on the list from acting as a caterer there.

Now City Council President Maryanne Jordan said the city is revisiting the concept to open the Depot up to more caterers.

In January, city officials said, they sent out a request for proposals from caterers who hoped to work at the site. The notice went out to more than 100 businesses, said Michael Zuzel, spokesman for Mayor Dave Bieter.

"Anybody who applied got on the list," Zuzel said.

"I definitely did not receive an RFP," said Bill Green, the principal of Chef Bill Green's Catering Company. Neither, apparently, did many other prominent catering companies. The list of 12 approved vendors includes names like Goodwood Barbecue Company, Big Sky Catering and Deli George, but not other long-term Boise operations like Angell's Bar and Grill or Berryhill and Company.

Getting blocked out of one catering site might not seem like much until you figure that Green and others depend on the Depot in winter because it is one of the largest indoor sites available during the cold months. Green has already backed out of three nonprofit events he was planning to assist with this year, he said, because he's worried about money. "My bottom line just got hit," Green said.

The city's rationale, Zuzel said, was to streamline operations at the Depot.

"The idea was, if you have a limited number of caterers that can operate out of the Depot, you don't have to train a new vendor each week," Zuzel said. "In exchange, we'd be able to charge a premium." That premium amounts to a 10 percent extra charge on a customer's catering bill, for use of the Depot. The policy was set to take effect this coming October.

But due to the fuss caused by Green and other caterers, Zuzel and Jordan said, they'll be revisiting the list, and possibly opening the Depot back up.

--Shea Andersen