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Congestion at New Chick-fil-A on State Street Hard for Some to Swallow

Santa Barbara officials order the installation of signs warning motorists not to block traffic while waiting to enter the drive-through

Crowds flocking to the new Chick-fil-A restaurant in Santa Barbara are causing a bit of indigestion for neighbors and city traffic officials.

The restaurant’s drive-through window has been so popular that cars having been backing up onto State Street, causing congestion and prompting city officials to order the installation of signs warning motorists not to block the roadway’s right lane.

Chick-fil-A, which opened Feb. 7 at 3707 State St., has one of the few drive-throughs allowed in the city, and neighbors have been complaining about congestion in the area, according to traffic engineer Derek Bailey.

Drivers have been blocking the right-hand lane and a bike lane when the line has snaked out of the restaurant’s small parking lot.

Public Works officials say they hope it’s a temporary problem while people are trying out the restaurant.

The same thing happened when Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods opened, but everything settled into a more normal traffic pattern eventually, Bailey noted.

The city has ordered the installation of signs stating, “No waiting on street for parking lot” — and the appropriate Vehicle Code section — to post near the restaurant, and will install them soon.

“We’re really hoping we don’t have to send police along there for enforcement,” he said. “People just want a chicken sandwich; we get that.”

Chick-fil-A employees are trying to help by taking orders outside by hand so not every car has to wait and order into the speaker, which is making the line move faster, Bailey said.

“We hope it dies down in a few weeks,” he said. “If police enforcement is required, with that and signs, word will get out that people can’t wait on the street. Go around the block, or go down the block, park and walk.”

The site was formerly a Burger King, and has been the topic of controversy in Santa Barbara since Chick-fil-A president and CEO Dan Cathy said he opposed same-sex marriage in an interview last summer.

Architectural Board of Review members abstained from a vote on minor changes to the Santa Barbara project, some because of personal opinions about the company, and were later reprimanded and required to go through ethics training.

Since the restaurant’s opening, employees have been handing out coupons and giveaways, and there have been several protests by UCSB students and others.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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