How does one solve the Chick-fil-A problem in Santa Barbara? With more Chick-fil-A, of course.
Chick-fil-A on Monday applied for a permit to open a second restaurant at 4765 Calle Real — the current site of IHOP.
The company is asking to demolish the building and build a new, state-of-the-art Chick-fil-A with a drive-thru. The restaurant would be in addition to its location at 3707 State St., and not in place of it.
“We are always evaluating potential new locations in the hopes of serving existing and new customers great food with remarkable service, and we’re happy to confirm that we’re exploring an additional location in the Santa Barbara community,” Chick-fil-A spokesman Sean Ward said. “We know demand is high, and we’re looking forward to providing more options for our many raving fans.”
The application comes amid a firestorm of controversy over the Chick-fil-A in Santa Barbara. The restaurant is so popular — up to 2,500 visits every day — that vehicles sometimes back up out of the driveway and into the street, enraging some local residents.
On March 1, the city and Chick-fil-A agreed to spend three months talking about an elaborate plan to reduce traffic out into the street, although the problem already has subsided. Chick-fil-A has hired a security guard, extra employees to direct traffic in the drive-thru lanes, and posted signs telling people not to back out into the street.
Rather than ticket motorists who block pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular traffic, the city is putting the pressure on Chick-fil-A to solve the problem and said that if the issue isn’t resolved by June, then the city could declare the restaurant a “public nuisance,” a move that ultimately would lead to the loss of its ability to have a drive-thru. Santa Barbara no longer allows new drive-thrus. Chick-fil-A when it opened in 2013 entered a building previously occupied by the less popular Burger King restaurant.
The new restaurant would go in at the current site of IHOP, which is planning to move to Goleta, near the DMV office. There were no customers and the parking lot was empty on Tuesday afternoon.
Travis Seawards, deputy director of Santa Barbara County’s Development Review Division, said the county would have “more discretion” than the City of Santa Barbara. Chick-fil-A would need a conditional use permit to open a restaurant.
“It would have to go through the Planning Commission,” Seawards said. “You would have more ability to condition the approval.”
Neighborhood compatibility would be one of the main requirements, Seaward said.
The location is next to a Starbucks drive-thru, which also experiences occasional queuing into the street by patrons. Across the intersection is In-N-Out Burger, a fast-food restaurant where the lines snake through the parking lot.
“There’s a lot of levels of analysis we have to go through before we make any recommendations,” Seawards said.
Santa Barbara City Councilman Eric Friedman had not heard the news of the additional Chick-fil-A until he was informed by Noozhawk.
“If they think it is good for their business to have two sites and they think they would help, I am open to any and all solutions that allow them to operate here and address the traffic impacts here,” said Friedman, whose Santa Barbara District 5 includes Chick-fil-A. “A lot of restaurants have more than one location.”
Friedman said he doesn’t want to see the Santa Barbara location lose its drive-thru because it would lead to other problems, such as people driving to the restaurant, parking their cars and waiting in long lines to get their chicken and waffle fries.
He said an additional location is a solution.
“I think it would be a win-win for everybody,” Friedman said.
— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.