At a time when the city of Santa Barbara is trying to recruit and retain new businesses, the City Council on Tuesday might take the first step toward restricting the operations of one of its most popular restaurants.
The Chick-fil-A restaurant at 3707 State St. has grown so popular that cars often backup out of the driveway and into the street.
Pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists have been hounding the city for years to do something about the backup, which they say creates problems and is unsafe.
Chick-fil-A has responded with several changes over the years, including creating two lines of vehicle traffic, placing workers in the lanes to take orders, and stationing a security guard on the street encouraging people not to back out into the roadway.
Like the In-N-Out restaurants, Chick-fil-A has garnered a cult-like following of people who crave the chicken, waffle fries and milkshakes.
But Chick-Fil-A is ready to fight back.
Beth Collins, an attorney representing the restaurant, said declaring Chick-fil-A a public nuisance violates the municipal code and California Law.
“It unfairly targets one business, not on the basis of how that business is conducted, but rather on its customer popularity,” Collins wrote in a letter to City Hall. “Should the City Council erroneously declare CFA’s drive-through to be a public nuisance and order the drive-through closed, such action would deprive countless Santa Barbara citizens of safe, contactless food service, and amount to an unconstitutional taking for which just compensation would be owed.”
She said the council instead should vote to direct staff to work with CFA for at least a 90-day period to develop a plan to remedy the situation. Collins wrote in the letter that Chick-fil-A has proposed previous remedies, but they have been rejected by the city.
Santa Barbara knowingly permitted Chick-fil-A to open in 2013, taking over a spot previously occupied by Burger King. The city no longer allows new drive-throughs, but Chick-fil-A was able to move into the space as a legal, non-forming use, approved by the city’s Community Development Department.
Chick-fil-A is not the only restaurant that has cars that occasionally queue into the street. The drive-through at the Starbucks on Turnpike Road near Goleta also frequently sees cars backing up onto Calle Real.
Chick-fil-A has made several efforts to fix the problem.
Travis Collins, who operates the Santa Barbara Chick-fil-A franchise, told Noozhawk that the company has hired additional team members to serve customers further up the line, posted signage throughout the premises to help better show entry and exit points and to help guests understand that it is illegal to block sidewalks or stop on the street, and hired third-party traffic control to help with vehicle flow.
“At our very core, Chick-fil-A strives to serve not only our guests, but our communities at large,” Collins said. “We want nothing more than to be a good neighbor. That’s why as the local restaurant operator, I’ve been working diligently with the city and our internal partners to continue mitigating traffic concerns… I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to serve our Santa Barbara community for the past few years, including through donations to local nonprofits, food drives and more, and look forward to making a positive impact for many years to come.”
According to the city’s staff report, among the actions the city could take is to alter the company’s operations, or revoke the company’s ability to have a drive-through at the site.