Famed Park City restaurateur serves up big portions of campaign money
Bill White, the famed Park City restaurateur, served up plenty of money for the mayoral campaign of Andy Beerman.
And into the mayoral campaign of Jack Thomas.
In what would seem to be a political oddity, White was the largest contributor to both of the campaigns for Park City’s top political office. White’s financial support to both of the candidates was among the notable details of the required financial statements Beerman and Thomas submitted to City Hall. Since there was not a primary in the mayoral contest, the late-October financial statements were the first that Beerman and Thomas filed.
Thomas received the first of two contributions from White on Aug. 12, when the restaurateur hosted a party for him at Windy Ridge Cafe to mark the start of the campaign. The fair market value of the party, Thomas reported in the financial statement, was $9,000. A little more than three weeks later, White made a $5,000 contribution to the Thomas campaign, the statement shows. The two donations accounted for 26 percent of the overall total through late October.
Beerman, meanwhile, received an undated contribution from White of $5,000. White also provided $6,312.18 in fair market value for a party at his Grappa restaurant. White accounted for a stunning 41.2 percent of Beerman’s financial support through late October.
White’s contributions to the two campaigns are significant factors in what was an unexpectedly expensive contest between Beerman, who is a Park City Councilor, and Thomas, a member of the Park City Planning Commission. The campaign was competitive as the two vied to succeed the retiring three-term mayor, Dana Williams. But the outsized numbers were a surprise nonetheless as Beerman and Thomas waged Park City’s most expensive political campaign.
The contributions from White accounted for 31.2 percent of the overall total between the two candidates.
White is well known in Park City for his repeated successes in the restaurant industry, stretching from Main Street to the Snyderville Basin. His properties, under the banner of Bill White Restaurant Group, include Grappa Italian Restaurant, Wahso, Chimayo and Windy Ridge Cafe.
White, though, is only occasionally politically active in such a high-profile manner. He advocates City Hall efforts to expand the economy, but he rarely makes appearances at municipal meetings. He did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
In 2009, as the recession gripped Park City, White became a figure in what was a newly formed group called Citizens for Responsible Economic Growth and Vitality. The group pressed for City Hall to create what it called a "responsible economic plan." The group formed amid that year’s City Hall campaign, when the mayor’s office and two Park City Council seats were on the ballot — the same positions that were on the ballot this year.
White at the time wanted an economic summit held between City Hall and businesspeople to address Main Street. The group, though, is not known to have been active since.
Thomas said in an interview he has had a lengthy friendship with White, saying that they have been fly fishing together. Thomas, an architect, has drafted designs or conducted studies for some of White’s restaurants, including Grappa Italian Restaurant and Chimayo. He said White is "unbelievably creative."
Thomas said he spoke to White a few times during the campaign, but they did not discuss the future of Park City, he said. White offered to host the party and make the monetary contribution rather than Thomas asking for them, Thomas said.
"He’s a friend. We talk about cars. We talk about design. We talk about lighting fixtures he’s creating and designing," Thomas said.
Beerman also said he has known White for years. He said he met with numerous figures in Park City in the early days of the campaign, including White. Beerman, who is also a Main Street businessperson, said he and White agree on the desire to expand Park City’s economy through the diversification of the resort industry, including outside of the ski season. They also agree that Main Street must remain vital, Beerman said.
"We just connected real well when were talking. We had a lot of common vision," Beerman said.
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Sales-tax collections in Park City in July beat City Hall projections by a wide margin, providing a key data point that illustrates a nascent economic comeback of sorts from the spring business shutdowns.