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Changes at BWI eateries, bars create uncertainty for workers

An airport food company warned state regulators Thursday that it is laying off 112 employees as it hands off the management of restaurants and bars at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to another firm — which could decide to hire all the same workers.

SSP America said the switchover began in early January and would be complete by the end of March, according to its notice to the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean said SSP had a sublease with concessions developer AIRMALL USA to operate six restaurants and bars but decided to leave.

"The company has made similar moves in other airports across the country," said Dean, who added that current employees have a good chance of remaining on the job through the switchover thanks to their experience in the "unique airport environment."

SSP said in a statement that it is working with Creative Food Group, which bought the contract to run the sites, "to ensure a smooth transition and continued quality service for BWI patrons and employees."

Creative Food Group is converting five of the locations to new brands, Dean said. An Au Bon Pain cafe has already been changed to a Market Fresh eatery. A conversion of the Rum Island bar and grill to a Pepper's Mexican Cantina is under way.

In conversions yet to come, Shannon's bar will become a PAX Burger and Bar, Formaggio will become a Bin#222 Wine Bar and Eatery, and Bill Bateman's Bistro will become a Samuel Adams bar. The Ram's Head tavern will remain unchanged, Dean said.

Dean said the airport also expects to add more food and retail concessions as part of its two-year terminal update project, an effort to accommodate passenger growth.

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