Fairfax County has rejected the effort of Scotty and Shirley Heller to keep their popular mom-and-pop cafeteria in the county courthouse. The county instead awarded Marriott Corp. a three-year contract to run that facility and cafeterias in two other buildings.

The Hellers, both 58, will be given 90 days' notice to close their cafeteria, which has operated for 14 years in the basement of the courthouse at Rte. 236 and Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax City. Marriott then will begin operating vending machines and cafeterias in the courthouse, the main county administration building and the new Judicial Center under construction nearby.

"I think the county's action is quite outrageous," said Robert Webb, one of several Fairfax lawyers who volunteered to represent the Hellers. "To be treated like this by the county government really makes one lose faith in the way government is administered."

The new cafeteria contract requires Marriott to pay the county about $70,500 annually plus a 10 percent commission on vending machine sales.

Last month, local patrons of the Hellers collected 1,300 signatures on a petition after the county purchasing office rejected without explanation their offer to continue running the cafeteria. A six-member county committee unanimously picked Marriott, a food-industry giant.

"I don't know what action we will take," Scotty Heller said. "But we'll probably end up being in court over this."