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Long Beach (LGB) last week opened a new, 11-gate, 35,000-square-foot concourse including a consolidated screening facility, lounges with improved seating and a new concession mix with both food and beverage and retail offered by The Paradies Shops.

“It’s changed the dynamic of traveling out of Long Beach 180 degrees,” says airport director Mario Rodriguez, who admits the airport’s previous offering was inadequate to meet the needs of the traveling public. “We actually designed the concourse to mimic a high-end resort hotel. You’re going to get outside wine bars with fire pits, fire features in our restaurant, there is a Marche with high-end food.”

The opening marks the first time longtime airport retailer Paradies has been responsible for an entire food and beverage program at an airport.

“We have had really fabulous guest response to the various offerings,” says Leslie Christon, vice president of food and beverage for The Paradies Shops. “We selected all local partners for this airport venture – five different vendors who had restaurants on the street or wine bars on the street or coffee bars on the street and brought those concepts here to the airport,”

The food offerings include McKenna’s on the Bay and Long Beach Burger Bar by McKenna’s, Taco Beach Cantina, George’s Greek Cafe, Polly’s Gourmet Coffee & Sweet Jill’s Bakery. Some of the food and beverage offerings are camped within a larger Marche food area. In addition, a wine bar called 4th Street Vine offers food and wine, with fire pits and outdoor seating.

“We’ve added a very southern California experience in the new gate area,” notes Lou Bottino, chief operating officer for The Paradies Shops.

Rodriguez says the goal of the program was to elevate the customer experience. “Normally you get through our checkpoint in about 5-7 minutes,” he says. “From there passenger go into a large palm garden. If they go right they go past our outdoor wine bar with fire pits and outdoor seating, into our concession area and hold rooms. The concession area is mixed with the hold room.”

“On the other side its the same thing,” Rodriguez continues. “There is an outdoor restaurant with a beautiful bar. It’s much different than what people are used to in an airport environment.”

It’s certainly different that what passengers at LGB were accustomed to. In addition to an historic terminal building, which has been retained, the airport was serving passengers by using trailers as gate hold areas. Paradies has held the retail contract since 2006 but Bottino says that amounted to one small store and a couple of kiosks.

The new concourse cost $45M and did not result in any increase to rates and charges to airlines, Rodriguez says.