By DAN GUZEWICH Staff writer

The county is looking for a restaurateur to take over the empty facility at Union Station.

Potential operators have until July 20 to respond with a plan to serve up food to the traveling public, county employees based at the station and visitors to the county-owned building. The county hopes the restaurant will be open again by November.

The Blue Flag Room closed earlier this year after the county did not renew the operator’s lease. There was dissatisfaction on the county’s part with the emphasis placed on serving banquets and catering off-premises events. It would prefer to see an operation that aims to first serve people going in and out of the Utica landmark daily.

The county is now taking a second stab at lining up a successor to the Blue Flag Room. Two responses were received to an initial call for proposals — when the Blue Flag was still in operation. The county later decided to hold off until issues between the county and Blue Flag Room operator David Morgan had been resolved and the first-floor facility was closed.

The restaurant has had several operators in recent years.

Union Station serves Amtrak and Adirondack Scenic Railroad passenger trains, as well as intercity and local bus service. It also is the home to five county offices, including the Department of Motor Vehicles.

"There is significant potential for a profitable restaurant location at Union Station when considering employee counts, other tenant counts, neighboring businesses/attractions including the Piers & Blake, Children’s Museum, NetJet, Kids Oneida and others," states the request for proposals available from the Department of Public Works.

Annual bus and rail passengers counts, not including Centro, are about 110,000 a year, according to the county. Added to this is the traffic generated by 500 to 700 DMV transactions carried out each week day at Union Station.

Financial terms and length of the lease will be negotiated with the tentative tenant after the proposals are reviewed.