A California city is considering closing off the drive-thru at a Chick-fil-A restaurant because it is too popular.
The City of Santa Barbara’s city council is being asked to start the process that would declare the operation of a drive-thru to be a public nuisance, allowing city officials to shut it down, according to KTLA-TV.
A city report noted that the site was originally operated as a Burger King restaurant in 1978. In 1979, the city’s rules banning new drive-thrus were adopted, but the site was allowed to continue as a drive-thru. The problems did not begin until Chick-fil-A arrived in 2013.
Beginning in 2019, the report said city officials have tried to devise ways to deal with traffic congestion. To date, the report said, nothing has worked.
“Each time a queue forms on State Street, the eastbound number two traffic lane is blocked leaving only one lane available. The queuing increases the risk of collisions, particular rear-end collisions and side-swipe collisions. Queued vehicles persistently block the sidewalk and bike lanes, creating a danger to pedestrians and cyclists. The queuing of vehicles routinely blocks access to adjacent businesses, which affects customer and delivery access to these businesses,” the report said.
The report requested that the city council “declare that a public nuisance exists at 3707 State Street [location of the restaurant] and direct abatement of the nuisance by cessation of use of the drive- through facility and direct the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance containing appropriate findings declaring the nuisance, ordering its abatement and authorizing the City Attorney to take appropriate action to enforce the ordinance.”
“It is important to understand we’re trying to cure, not trying to punish,” Mayor Randy Rowse said, according to the Santa Barbara News Press.
Councilmember Kristen Sneddon said the issue is that the Chick-fil-A site’s business is simply grown beyond what its location can reasonably accommodate.
“This is not about the goodness of the company or the goodness of the owners and certainly not about the goodness of the employees,” she said. “Chick-fil-A has a good problem here. They are so successful, they have outgrown their site. It’s possible they were oversized for that site, to begin with.”
Chick-fil-A representatives have said they can address the issue by rearranging traffic flow on the property and forcing customers to turn right when they leave the drive-thru.
“On behalf of myself, Chick-fil-A and the many team members, we sincerely regret that this traffic situation has come to this point and heartily wish to work in good faith with the city to resolve this matter once and for all,” said Travis Collins, owner and operator of the restaurant. “We believe we do have solutions, several of them.”
But Sneddon said customer demand for Chick-fil-A is such that nothing will fix the traffic problem the restaurant creates because customers are willing to wait however long it takes to be served.
“There is no constitutional right to operate a business in a manner that creates a public nuisance,” said Dan Hentschke, an assistant city attorney.
“People do not have to die because of a traffic accident before you declare it a public nuisance,” he continued.
Chick-fil-A currently has until June 7 to propose a solution that can stave off the public nuisance declaration.
Santa Barbara has a law on the books that complicates life because it has banned new drive-thru businesses, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But Chick-fil-A might address the issue by seeking a new location about two miles from its current location in a spot where the city’s rules do not hinder opening a drive-thru.
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