OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – After being shuttered for months, the State Department of Tourism has announced a new group is taking over the operations of restaurants at six state parks.
“I am confident that we came out with a product and that the process we followed was completely transparent and had integrity,” said Shelley Zumwalt, Executive Director of the State Tourism Department.
The tourism department said La Ratatouille LLC is coming to Lake Murray, Quartz Mountain, Robbers Cave, Roman Nose, Sequoyah, and Beavers Bend State Parks.
The tourism department said they’ll be open by Memorial Day Weekend and inspections should be finished by mid-May.
You may also recognize La Ratatouille LLC’s brands, like Falcone’s Pizzeria, Johnny Cake’s Bakery, several food trucks, and catering businesses.
“They’re ready to go, they’re fully stocked, and we’re excited to get them open,” said Zumwalt.
This announcement came after the state’s previous multi-million dollar contract, with Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen, was canceled. The state accuses Swadley’s of misspending millions of taxpayer dollars from the state. The restaurant group denies that and are counter-suing.
“I wasn’t here at the agency when that was going on. And, you know, the agency isn’t legally allowed to talk about pending litigation,” said Zumwalt.
Meanwhile at the state capitol, Representative Jon Echols said a SB4 is on its way to the House floor, and it will give the power to hire the tourism director back to the tourism commission. Governor Kevin Stitt was given that authority in 2018. The bill will also prevent the governor from removing commission members without cause.
“This was in response to some of the old tourism scandals,” said the Republican Representative for Oklahoma City.
“We need more eyes going on with what’s going on in tourism,” said Rep. Echols. “This bill is not an attack on Governor Kevin Stitt. It is not an attack on the current director. It is simply the legislature doing their job.”
Zumwalt said the seven bids the state received were reviewed by an evaluation team and she was not involved.
“The state is not subsidizing the restaurant group,” said Zumwalt. “The state, as part of the contract will be receiving 13% of gross receipts each month.”
The tourism department said it’s really pushing for transparency. The department released this QR code with direct links to all the bids they received to run the state’s restaurants.