Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Farmer's Tale

The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce awarded a three year contract to operate a restaurant at the Farmer's Market on the downtown fairgrounds in 2014 to Baha, LLC.   The Farmer's Table restaurant is operated by the daughter of Jackson Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon.  The Farmer's Table is in Ms. Barrett-Simon's ward.

The Clarion-Ledger tried to determine whether MDAC earns a profit from the Mississippi State Fair.  It quickly became very clear that MDAC had no way to determine how much money it gained or lost from events or facilities.   JJ obtained from MDAC a copy of the current lease of the Farmer's Table at the fairgrounds, a schedule of payments, and the request for proposals (RFP) through a public records request that was submitted a year ago.  The records were forgotten until the newspaper published the story earlier this week (Hey, it happens.).  The records became relevant again given the nature of the Clarion-Ledger story.

Gary Clark operated the restaurant until 2014 and paid rent of $1,000 per month.   The department issued a RFP in 2014 to provide food service at the building.  However, the RFP did not state a monthly rent but instead required interested parties to state what share of the gross sales would be remitted to the department.  The monthly payment would thus change a fixed amount of rent to a payment that would rise and fall each month with the sales. 

MDAC awarded the contract to Baha, LLC. The company does business as Uncorked Catering and The Farmer's Table.  It is owned by Danielle Beard and Kathryn Barrett.  Ms. Barrett is the daughter of Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon.  The contract expires in August 2017 but it can be extended twice for one year terms.

The contract states that Baja will pay 25% of food sales at the restaurant (less sales taxes) and 14% of  catering revenue to the department.  Baja must operate the restaurant six days per week from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM although the department can approve a request to change the operating hours.   Baha has to provide audited financial statements to MDAC within 210 days after the beginning of a new year.  The department can reject the audit and perform its own audit as well.

JJ obtained through a public records request the payments from Baha from the beginning of the contract in June 2014 to October 2015 (when the public records request was filed.).   Baha paid monthly payments that were less than the $1,000 per month received under the old contract but paid more than $1,000 per month seven times as well.  Baha actually doubled the old rental payment at least twice.   Baha paid $16,550 in gross sales commissions to MDAC in 15 months for an average monthly payment of $1,103. 

Check out the Farmer's Table daily menu.


Anonymous said...

Yet, another example of Republicans ruining, I mean running, state government. A woman who has no business experience elected to an office and she can't (or rather won't) tell the public if something makes a profit. Hyde-Smith, as they say in the bidness, you need to be let out to pasture.

Anonymous said...

Please don't get mad, but where's the news in this? How is it really relevant to issues regarding profitability of State Fair? And why the emphasis on restaurant being run "by the daughter of Jackson Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon" and "in Ms. Barrett-Simon's ward"?

Anonymous said...

More deep shoe-leather enterprise reporting. Thanks Kingfish!

Anonymous said...

Their food is pretty damn good. I've eaten there a few times, breakfast and lunch, and always been very pleased.

Anonymous said...

The single check is not broken out to show how much business the restaurant did and how much of that is from the catering business. Would be interesting to see.
If I remember correctly, Gary Clark's lease had not expired, but Hyde-Smith restructured it. Coincidence that Margaret's daughter just happened to be looking for a place to open a catering business, and lo-and-behold, this opportunity presented itself. The smell of nepotism and deals-for-friends is heavy on this.

Anonymous said...

Gary can open up a restaurant in Fondren (not in a residential house) and try his hand at it....or he can open a place up near there on High street and try his hand at it.....

What is the big deal?

Anonymous said...


I agree that a more detailed accounting of the restaurant versus the catering sales is in order. An average of $1100.00 per month rent for a retail location is much too low. What I don't understand is your claim of nepotism. What is the family relationship between Hyde-Smith and Danielle Beard and/or Kathryn Barrett? Also, I doubt any of those involved are close friends since Hyde-Smith is a staunch republican and the rest are dyed-in-the-wool democrats. Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

The deal stinks. Looks like just another way a crooked Jackson elected official helps out a family member at the cost of the tax payers.
One question needs to be asked. Was Clark forced to leave so the lease could be given to someone else?

Anonymous said...

Good gosh. Here we go again. Though I have never eaten breakfast at The Farmers Table, their lunches are exceptional...tasty, somewhat unique, leaning toward health-conscious. Sooo much better than greasy, over-cooked 'food' that Gary offered.

Do believe Gary still has the food contract for trade mart, coliseum and fairgrounds. Sure would be nice if that would change.

Kingfish said...

Tell me about it. I might have to try the place out after seeing the daily menu.

As for his contracts, pulling them would be a blessing. Nothing like a Jack and Pepsi. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

The only problem I see with this deal is that CHS pulled the lease before it expired. Don't know if CHS and MBS have any particular connection or not - but just the fact that they are both elected officials, or both women, or both both - doesn't make this deal questionable.

It would be interesting to know reasoning that CHS felt that she should cancel an existing lease to replace it with another below market rate lease for basically the same money.

Anonymous said...

I doubt any "under-handed" type of deal in this Farmer's Table. Margaret Barrett-Simone is a Democrat and Cindy Hyde-Smith is a Republican.

Anonymous said...

I've used uncorked for catering and they're damn good. Would absolutely recommend them and will definitely use them again. Haven't eaten at the restaurant though. Didn't know they served breakfast.

Anonymous said...

October 13, 2016 at 6:49 PM = Binary Thinker

Anonymous said...

cindy i-hid-it-smith hyde is nothing more than a career politician who knows absolutely nothing about running an agency. welcome to mississippi where we love to give agency director jobs to legislators.

Anonymous said...

What on earth deems Hyde-Smith qualified as AG. Commishioner other than the Smith part?

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Cindy Hyde-Smith is elected, not appointed.

Anonymous said...

9:23. as i said, ONLY IN MISSISSIPPI. DUH!

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine a Jackson city councilwoman has any pull at the state level, some of you guys are really reaching here. It's like saying a manager at a local Chickfila has some pull with the corporate office, just isn't so. I did have breakfast there a few months ago and it was excellent for whatever that is worth (I'm guessing not much here?). Seems like a well run operation when I was there!

Nothing To See Here Right said...

Neither 10:35 nor 3:40 have the simple ability to connect dots. Their inquiry stops as soon as they see one is a republican and one is a democrat.

Do the names Thad Cochran and Harry Reid ring a bell? They make sweet deals all the time and one is a Republ....shit, never mind.

Anonymous said...

You need to dig a little deeper into the contract. The original RFP that was issued and also called for in an e-mail stated that both the concessions at the fairgrounds and the restaurant had to bid together. Whoever won the RFP HAD to take the restaurant also. Hyde-Smith separated the two later in the process - a violation of state law. And by the way Gary Clark, Sr., the current holder of the concessions at the fairgrounds was not involved with the Fondren nightclub. I received an invitation to Walter and Beth Micheal's engagement party a couple of weeks ago and noted that Hyde-Smith was listed as a host, but she dropped the Hyde part and listed her last name as Smith.

Anonymous said...

Those are sock puppets @5:45 AM as are the many good reviews.

Anonymous said...

When did the restaurant start honoring its posted hours of operation? I've stopped there several times for breakfast around 8:00 a.m. on weekdays, only to find them closed.

Anonymous said...

How much money did the Ag Department invest in the restaurant? I've heard about $30,000 - Clark owned all of his equipment and when he lost the contract, his equipment went with him. PEER needs to look into Cindy Hyde-Smith!

Anonymous said...

I eat breakfast there quite a bit and its always open during the week.

Did you go to the right building off High Street?

Anonymous said...

One only has to drive by at lunch to realize no one eats there anymore. The place used to be filled by 11:30 before they started serving up fluff and puff food. I find it interesting that MDAC funded the ladies kitchen equipment, the signs out front say they are open Tuesday - Saturday. Hyde-Smith must have taken same classes as Chris Epps on how to run a department. As a taxpayer I am troubled that nobody can tell wether the fair turns a profit. You pay to park, you pay for admission, the ride contractor signs a huge deal and pays MDAC to be there. The food vendors pay for their spots. Hell, I'm sure even Addie Green could determine if they turned a profit.

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