ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - The massive food fight over contracts at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has reached a boiling point.
Fiesta officials announced Friday they're not budging, and that means at least a dozen veteran vendors won't be at the fiesta this October.
The issue has been a real tug of war between fiesta officials who say vendors need more oversight and vendors who say that oversight means overcharging.
Everybody has their favorite Balloon Fiesta staple whether it be a breakfast burrito, Indian tacos or enchiladas, but some patrons might not find what they're craving at the 41st annual fiesta. At least a dozen vendors are pulling out after they say officials refused to compromise on a new concession contract.
"The New Mexico flavor is going to be gone," said Pete Dinelli, the vendors' attorney. "These major vendors that have been out there for so many years are going to be gone, and so are the types of food that they offer."
Dinelli represents 19 of the vendors who haven't been able to reach an agreement with the fiesta board over a new contract they're being asked to sign. It would force vendors to fork over 30 percent of their overall profits instead of paying one flat rate.
That money will fund an out of state company called Ovations to monitor the food.
"You cannot make it," said vendor Steve Chavez. "I pay 30 percent to employees, 30 percent in inventory, then Ovations takes 30 percent.
"We have to pay 7 percent in gross receipts tax, and add it up. Ninety-seven percent with only 3 percent left for us. You can't do it."
Chavez and his family have been serving food at the fiesta for 28 years. His daughter even met her husband there.
But he's not setting up this year. Neither are Pericos, Rex Hamburgers, Hello Deli nor Mario's Pizza. Both Chavez and Dinelli say that will make the state's largest event very bland.
Officials say besides hiring Ovations, they also need to compensate for increasing electricity, propane and trash fees. They also argue the 30 percent take is actually less than what some vendors are already paying.
Dinelli said that's not true and believes Ovations should not be in the picture.
"The Balloon Fiesta Park belongs to the vendors just as much as Balloon Fiesta International," Dinelli said. The fiesta does not pay the city to use the park, he added.
"Vendors should be given the opportunity to rent space from the city and let the city manage the vendors," he said.
Last year the Fiesta had 50 food vendors. IN addition to the 12 that have pulled out, KRQE News 13 has learned six more could do the same.
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