Lawmakers Question Millions Spent On State Park Restaurants

Friday, April 1st 2022, 6:52 am
By: News 9

Lawmakers are asking why taxpayers are covering the costs of restaurants at state parks.

This came from a report showing that the tourism department paid millions to Swadley's Foggy Bottom Kitchen.

The new report shows a contract between the state and Swadley's cost taxpayers more than $16,000,000.

But the restaurant shows no signs of breaking even.

According to the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, a spending watchdog group, the state is covering the losses.

Oklahoma's tourism department hired Swadley's back in 2020 to take over restaurant space at several state parks.

It covered the cost of renovations and operations, spending way more than expected.

An audit is underway right now, reviewing Swadley's expenses and subcontractors.

But in the meantime, lawmakers are skeptical the spending was worth it.

“We want to make sure that before we give any more money that we’re moving in the right direction,” said Sen. Roger Thompson, (R) Chair on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Prior to the LOFT report meeting, the director of the state's tourism and recreation department said before Swadley's, the state operated the restaurant parks, which also brought in no money.

The director declined to comment after the meeting.

Meanwhile, the tourism department is asking for a $19,000,000 budget increase for next year.